Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Make Your Own Greatest Circus Poster on Earth
As I spent last week working in the Circus Building writing new cards for our Dive In With Webby program, which contain fun and interactive activities for visiting families of the museum, my eyes couldn’t stop from floating over to the circus posters.
During the Golden Age of the Circus in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the enormous traveling companies relied heavily upon poster distribution to announce their upcoming arrival to towns across America and Europe. While trusty locomotives hauled the 100 plus rail cars of resting animals, actors, equipment and wagons; a team of men were sent ahead to plaster the upcoming town with circus posters. It was common for a town to get covered with 5,000 to 8,000 posters!
Shelburne Museum’s large collection of posters is loaded with colorful images of great feats of daring, dangerous animals from remote parts of the world, and unbelievable sideshow characters. The sensational writing is another big selling point, as even I find myself pining to see “Goliath the Monster Sea Elephant: The Greatest Sea Monster Ever Exhibited Alive” (27.4-236), or “The Human Projectile Hugo Zacchini: A Living Person Shot Through Space with Violent Velocity from the Mouth of a Monster Cannon” (27.4-251).
Not only are these posters fun to see, they’re also fun and very easy to make! Where will your imagination take you?
To complete this activity you will need:
A Piece of Paper (8.5x11 is a fine size, but don’t be afraid to make a big poster)
The seven stencils, several of which were traced from toys made by the Holtztiger company, are spread onto two pages. Click on either page to open it in a new web browser. You might need to edit the settings on your printer to ensure a successful print.
1. Print out the stencils and cut them out (optional).
2. Map out your poster using the pencil, eraser, and the optional stencils. Ask yourself, “If I owned a circus what part of my show would be irresistible to see?” Draw lightly so you can erase if you need to.
3. Still using your pencil and eraser, write a title for your poster as well as the name for your circus.
4. Using your markers or colored pencils, fill the poster with as much color as you possibly can!
Want to really get people’s attention? Create your own circus stencils using found objects from around the house. Find other materials to decorate your poster with – like glitter, paints, macaroni, etc.
Feel free to check out these photos of the circus poster I made to help you get started. Tune in next month for another fun art project, and don’t forget to check out the Circus Building or our Dive in with Webby program when the museum opens for the season on May 13th!