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Explore More is a self-guided art-making program designed for children and families to explore contemporary art.

Image of children making art

Taking place in the Tephra ICA gallery, the content of Explore More centers around the artworks on display. Using the Explore More activity booklet and provided art-making materials, children and families are welcome to engage with the works on view and complete the Explore More activities at their own pace.

Explore More is a walk-in program and no reservation is required. Free for Tephra ICA Members | $5 for Non-Members. Read more about membership levels and benefits here.

In addition, The Home Edition of Explore More is designed to explore contemporary art and art making from the comfort of your home. Explore More Home Edition is a free program.

Laurel Nakadate artwork

Laurel Nakadate, The Kingdom #20, 2018
Image courtesy of the artist and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

Home Edition | Laurel Nakadate: Mother Line

Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art (Tephra ICA), in partnership with Mason Exhibitions at George Mason University, presents an exhibition of the work of Laurel Nakadate, guest curated by Lily Siegel and Donald Russell.

Laurel Nakadate explores themes of identity, relationships with strangers, and loneliness. The exhibition on view highlights the artist’s work exploring her family history, love, and loss, all through the lens of motherhood.

Read More About Mother Line for Inspiration

Activity 1:

The artwork featured in The Kingdom series by Laurel Nakadate was created after the loss of her mother and the birth of her son. These two important people in her life never had a chance to meet, but through the merging of photographs, Nakadate was able to see her mother holding her son in her arms. Nakadate even hired technicians over the internet to photo edit some of the images.

Would you like to merge photos and assemble an image of your own creation? Great! Follow the instructions below to combine your own pictures to create a brand new artwork collage.

You will need the following materials: a blank sheet of paper, glue, scissors, and an old magazine or picture scraps. Optional: Ask your parent or guardian if you can use copies of family photographs.

1. Start by finding parts of pictures or photographs you would like to combine in your collage. These can be images cut from your favorite magazine, newspaper, or scraps of paper you have around your house. Continue to collect pictures until you have enough to create an entirely new image. You may also choose to combine family photographs just like artist Laurel Nakadate. Be sure to only cut family photographs with your parent or guardian’s permission!

2. Begin to construct your new, merged image by arranging your selection of pictures of photographs on a blank sheet of paper. Move them around until you have each piece exactly where you would like it. Then glue each picture or photograph piece to the blank sheet of paper until everything is secure.

3. When finished, give your merged image a title and hang it somewhere for everyone to see!


Laurel Nakadate, Akron, Ohio #1, 2013 (From the Relations series)
Image courtesy of the artist and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects


Laurel Nakadate, Akron, Ohio #1, 2013 (From the Relations series)
Image courtesy of the artist and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects


Activity 2:

Laurel Nakadate explore ideas of self-representation and identity through her series titled Relations. She does this by photographing family “matches” that are direct relatives of her mother.

Many other artists also explore the ways in which they choose to represent themselves and form their identity. They may do this through creating self-portraits. Let’s create our own self-portraits with items we think represent ourselves!

You will need: a blank sheet of paper, pen or pencil, and coloring utensils such as colored pencils, crayons, or watercolors (optional).

1. Start by thinking about your favorite objects or characteristics about yourself. These could be some of your own physical features or objects and ideas that represent your personality. You can be as creative as you like! Remember, self-portraits are not just pictures or drawings of you, they can also be an image that symbolizes you.  

2. Draw these characteristics, objects, ideas or symbols on the blank sheet of paper in any way that you choose. (Tip: The work you create can be as literal or abstract as you choose. Self-portraits can take the form of landscape drawings, pictures of animals, or even just combinations of colors, as long as it represents you and your personality!)

3. Finish your self-portrait by adding color with a drawing utensil of your choice, and then give it a title!

Sue Wrbican, Buoyant Force, 2020

Sue Wrbican, Buoyant Force, 2020

Home Edition | Buoyant Force

Tephra ICA is pleased to present Buoyant Force, a 50-foot steel sculpture by artist Sue Wrbican. The sculpture is inspired by the work of another American artist named Kay Sage (b. 1898, New York; d. 1963, Connecticut). Sage created Surrealist paintings of tall structures that resemble scaffolding with rolled up pieces of fabric. Often the structures appear in dark and empty spaces. You will notice some of these elements in Wrbican’s sculpture, for example in the curled steel which appears to be attached by giant clothespins. The Buoyant Force sculpture is based off a maquette (a small model) Wrbican made and which was displayed in an exhibition at Tephra ICA in 2017.

Wrbican is an Associate Professor and Director of Photography at the School of Art at George Mason University. She holds an MFA in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design and a BA in English Writing with a concentration in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh.

Read More About Buoyant Force for Inspiration

Activity 1: Upcycled Bug Buddies

Recommended age group: Pre-k – Early elementary school

Buoyant Force, the title of Sue Wrbican’s sculpture, is made of recycled materials such as reclaimed steel pipes. Instead of becoming discarded garbage, these pipes were used to create a work of art that can be enjoyed by all.

You can also make a piece of art while also helping the environment. Would you like to try? Wonderful! Follow the steps below to use recycled materials and found objects to make your own upcycled insect!

You will need: scissors, pencil, tape or glue, a toilet paper or paper towel tube, old newspapers or magazines, drawing materials (markers, crayons, etc.), pipe cleaners or twigs from outside (ask your parents if you can go outside to look for these), and yarn or string (optional).

1. Take your paper towel or toilet paper tube. This will be the body of your bug. Decorate the body any way you wish—stripes and spots are great choices, or you might choose to wrap colorful yarn or string around the tube for a textured effect.

2. Now it’s time to construct your bug’s wings. Find some old newspaper or magazines (make sure to ask permission from an adult to use). Use a pencil to draw a circle about 4-5 inches across. Cut out your circle. Draw a line down the center of the circle and cut along the line. You now have two wings (trim to adjust to the shape you would like)! Color your wings if you wish and attach them to your bug’s body with glue or tape. Alternatively, you can find two leaves for your wings.

3. Make your bugs legs by attaching pipe cleaners or by finding small twigs outside. Your bug can have as many legs as you like! You can also use these materials to attach antennae to your bug’s head.

4. The final step is making your bug’s face. You can cut out two circles from newspaper, and then fill in a smaller circle in black. You can also use recycled water bottle caps or buttons.

Activity 2: Paper Engineering

Recommended age group: Upper elementary school

A large sculpture is typically created with the help of a team who collaborates to create a finished product. As discussed, Sue Wrbican is the artist who envisioned and designed the Buoyant Force sculpture. From here, she worked with a team including a curator, metal fabricators, painters, and engineers, among others. Engineers are experts in various materials and help to make sure structures are installed correctly.

You can experiment in engineering by using lots of materials, including simple paper. To make your own paper sculpture, just follow the steps below. 

You will need: several sheets of paper (construction paper, computer paper, and cardstock all work great), a pencil, scissors, and glue/tape/stapler

1. Take a sheet of paper and experiment with 3-D techniques. A few suggestions are:

Tab: Cut a strip of paper to the size you like. Fold back the end and crease. Place a small amount of tape or glue under the “tab” and attach to your paper or a larger structure.
Roll or loop: Cut a strip of paper and attach the two ends together with tape/glue/stapler. You can also wind the strip of paper around your finger, hold in place, and then unravel to create a curl or loop.
Accordion pleats: Cut a strip of paper and fold over 1 inch. Flip the strip of paper over and fold back. Continue this pattern until the end of the paper.
Fringe: Cut a strip of paper. Hold the paper so that it is horizontal and cut small slits into the paper which are close together

2. Combine different techniques to build up a paper sculpture of your own. Pay attention to how the paper balances—you may have to use certain techniques to help some areas stand up.

3. Add color by using different colored paper or by coloring the strips of paper before you begin folding and gluing them into place.


Activity 3: Public Art Sketchbook

Recommended age group: Middle school – High school

The Buoyant Force sculpture is considered public art. Public art is located in a public space for everyone to enjoy. Oftentimes, public art is located where many people gather, such as a park. There are many things to think about when creating a public art sculpture, such as materials, the environment in which it placed, the colors and shape it will be, and the name. Additionally, signs installed around the structure can help to better explain it to the public.

With just a few simple materials, you can make a Public Art Sketchbook to visualize your own creations.

You will need: several sheets of paper (computer or construction paper), a stapler, a pencil, and colored pencils/markers (optional).

1. To begin, make your sketchbook by folding 4-5 sheets of paper in half together. Make sure your paper is laid out horizontally in front of you when you fold into a notebook size.

2. Staple along the fold of papers three times.

3. Flip your sketchbook open to the first page (after the cover) and begin brainstorming your public art piece. You can make doodles or write down ideas. A few things to think about are:

- The name of the sculpture

- The materials it is made of

- The size

- The environment (i.e. urban city, park, desert, metro station)

- The shape and color

The overall concept (What is the purpose of the sculpture? What does it stand for?)

4. Flip the page and begin sketching your sculpture. Try to add details like trees, people, cars, and buildings to show the scale of the artwork in comparison. You can also add color with colored pencils or markers.


3AM Explore More Home Edition
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Anne C. Smith Explore More Home Edition
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