A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

A Storybook Cardinal Tree!

Visual artist Ilse Murdock is the Manager of Wave Hill’s Family Art Project, a free, drop-in program that for more than 20 years has helped connect families with both art and nature. 

If you visited Wave Hill’s Family Art Project this fall, you know we have been busy making cardinals galore! Earlier this season, the Family Art Project was invited by Bartow Pell Mansion Museum to participate in its Holiday Storybook Celebration and sale. Every year, Bartow Pell invites artisans to decorate a tree based on a selection of holiday stories. This year we were honored to be asked to decorate their largest tree, 12 feet high and located in the parlor in the central entryway.

The storybook we chose is a touching story about a boy who sees a cardinal who has fallen in the snow during a blizzard on Christmas Eve. With the help of his grandfather, the boy rescues the cardinal, learning to provide it with a makeshift home and feed it the appropriate diet. When the cardinal recovers, the boy and his family release it back into the wild. We love this story because it emphasizes families working together to understand and care for nature and wildlife. At the end of the story, the cardinal rewards the grandfather and son by returning year after year on Christmas Eve, filling a whole tree with a flock of bright-red cardinals. The image of the snowy tree filled with cardinals is stunning and provided a basis for our project.

Our tree at Bartow Pell consists of entirely handmade decorations made by the families visiting our program and by Family Art Project staff. And they underscore the values of our program: making use of found and recycled materials, showing children how to engage with nature and natural materials and inviting the participation of visitors of diverse cultural heritages and ages. To all who had a hand in creating our cardinals, we thank you and hope you have a chance to visit our tree!

Please also look for the cardinals we’ve hung on display in the Ecology Building where the Family Art Project takes place each Saturday and Sunday morning.

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