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Amherst Storybook Project

Become a part of the story...


Each season, Artistic Director Merli V. Guerra leads Luminarium's annual Cultural Community Outreach Project, which uses dance and art to highlight a local historical or cultural landmark.


For its 2015 Season, Luminarium worked in collaboration with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, to create a picture book celebrating the town's current residents while paying homage to Amherst's deep roots in literature and children's book illustration. Luminarium invited the greater Amherst community of all ages to contribute and to join the company for its culminating performance at the end of the 2015 Season.


The Amherst Storybook Project grew through five phases:


Phase 1: Gathering Artwork

Ages 0 through end of high school were invited to submit their artwork to be included in the project. Selected entries were highlighted on Luminarium's facebook page, and at the end of the gathering period, 12 images were selected to continue on. (All ages were welcome to submit artwork, though preference was given to ages 0-17 for this section.)



Phase 2: Reimagining of the Artwork

Next, Guerra took these 12 images, projected them from above onto the company dancers, and created a series of photographic stills in which the dancers and art merge to create fanciful and acrobatic landscapes.



Phase 3: Writing Submissions

All ages were invited to participate in this phase of the project. Writers chose images that most inspired them from Guerra's gallery (below), then submitted creative poems and short stories in response. Selected stories were highlighted on Luminarium's facebook page, and at the end of the gathering process, one writing piece per image was selected for the final book. 



Phase 4: Book Creation

With her experience of laying out professional national publications as Art Director of Art New England magazine, Guerra spent the next month designing a picture book featuring her reimagined images of the company (crediting the original artists whose work contributed to Guerra's creation), alongside their corresponding short stories and poems (crediting the writers). This book is now available for public purchase online, with all profits going towards Luminarium's future Cultural Community Outreach Projects.



Phase 5: Culminating Presentation

The goal of this project was to pay homage to Amherst's deep history in children's illustration and literature while uniting the creative minds of all ages with ties to the region.


To accomplish the final step of connecting the project's many artists and writers, Luminarium returned to the Eric Carle Museum in late Fall with a culminating afternoon of short family-friendly dance performances. Audiences watched as the dancers performed in front of all images submitted through Phase 1 of the project, then joined the company for a brief Q&A about the creative process (where many excellent questions came from the youngest in attendance!).


This culminating event was a treat for everyone: The young artists were introduced to the older writers who wrote about their images, and the company members introduced themselves to all the contributors—sharing anecdotes about the process of creating the final images. Before long, all were signing each others' books and forging new friendships and connections within the greater Amherst community. Beautiful!



Anchor 1


Supported in part by a grant from the Amherst Cultural Council,

a local agency which is supported by the
Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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