by Ben Shine
Normally my trips to the Murphy Arts Center in Fountain Square involve checking out galleries and studios on First Fridays, seeing shows at the amazing-sounding Hi-Fi, or dinner with friends at La Margarita.
I typically only visit the neighborhood when we can get a sitter and make a whole night out of taking in all it has to offer. But I recently had a reason to visit the Murphy on a rare Saturday morning with my adventurous and spirited toddler Emerson. We parked on Prospect and made our way to Little Makers, a special kid-focused event featuring a morning of crafts and classes with a music theme, as well as a chance to roam the maze that is the Murphy.
Since it’s nearly impossible for me to get anywhere on time with a toddler, we got to the Murphy after the event had already started. We were lucky enough to catch the tail end of a toddler sign language class taking place in the middle of vintage clothing shop Lux & Ivy.
Once it wrapped up, we followed a small group of families down the hallway to Get Dirty Ceramics, a small-but-mighty ceramics studio complete with potter’s wheels and kilns. We were greeted by Get Dirty’s owner, Jodi, who threw down some flat rounds of clay in front of us and told us that we would make our own 45 records out of clay.
Emerson stamped, shaped and decorated the clay with all the tools provided, and he even added realistic grooves to the piece. When he was satisfied with the shape, we took our creation over to a paint station, where he did what most toddlers do when handed a paint brush with multiple colors to choose from -- he added them all to create a totally brown ceramic record.
After we handed off our “records” to be fired in the kiln and cleaned up, we stopped at the Girls Rock! Indy headquarters there to make album covers for our ceramic 45s. Normally the space is home to summer camps and workshops for young women, to help them harness the power of music for positive self-esteem, self-expression and rocking. But for Little Makers, they pushed drum kits, stack of amps and instruments to the sidelines and set up tables full of construction paper, scissors, markers, crayons and other implements of crafting so the next generation of rockers could design their first album covers.
Thanks to my dedicated parenting, Emerson already has a healthy appreciation of the power of rock, but on this day he discovered the magical combination of glue and glitter. Later he introduced our car to glitter too, and the living room rug, and the carpet on the stairs.
When the final touches were put on Emerson’s first release, we wandered out of the studio and heard the sounds of music echoing down the hallways from the Joyful Noise studios. Like Homeric travelers attracted to a Siren’s song, we made our way toward the tunes. Before we got there, we met Alice, who owns Knot Eye Studio, a tattoo parlor in the building. For the little ones, Alice brought along tattoos of the temporary sort that she designed and printed for the day. Emerson picked out a star tat to match his dad. He subsequently spent the next week demanding Saran wrap to make sure it doesn’t wash off in the bath. It’s hard to explain “temporary” to a preschooler.
Once he was properly inked up, we popped into the Joyful Noise studios for some music. The room usually serves as a show space for local powerhouse label Joyful Noise Recordings, hosting shows by local and national bands, as well as a record store and recording studio for the label (including a recent session by the near-and-dear-to-my-heart Melvins). But instead of an indie rock band or recording session, the room was littered with rattles, jingle bells, tambourines, drums, xylophones and small fry jumping and dancing around the room.
On stage, local kid rocker, Mr. Daniel, was belting out traditional tiny tot tunes and childproofed versions of rock songs alongside his regular sidekick and 3-year-old son, Roland. This wee rock star stands beside his father with his own guitar and sings out songs into his own microphone. We’re big fans. We danced and sang along for a few songs before Roland left the stage with his mom to go make his own ceramic record.
Just then, Mr. Daniel asked if any other kids wanted to join him on stage. Before I could even think, Emerson had already made his way to the stage and strapped on Roland’s guitar and put himself behind the mic. I’m pretty sure this is what it feels like to watch your kid hit a homerun or win a spelling bee. He strummed and sang along to Itsy-Bitsy Spider, This Land is Your Land, Five Little Monkeys and even The Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop, one of his all-time faves, although he prefers the title, Hey Ho, Let’s Go.
Mr. Daniel does it right, replacing the line that says “Shoot ’em in the back now” with “Pat them on the back now.” After a bunch of songs, Roland came back to reclaim his rightful spot next to his dad and Emerson was happy to take a big round of applause before leaving the stage and heading home as a budding rock star.
Little Makers was a blast. It was a really nice change of pace from our regular Saturday morning kid outings at the Children's Museum, IMA and city parks. We love those places and will continue to visit them, but I hope to see more pop-up activities like this. I talked to some of the organizers, and they tell me to keep an eye out for a November date for another Little Makers event. In the meantime, Emerson and I will continue to practice our guitar skills together, and we’ll be searching for better ways to completely remove glitter from random surfaces in our home.