Public Art

Fairy Music Farm

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Interactive musical attraction for young children and their friends at Children's Fairyland, Oakland, CA 2009

Lead Artist: Lynne-Rachel Altman
Composer: Richard Jennings
Murals: Biliana Stremska
Instruments: Daniel Schmidt

With assistance from Alan Reeves at Borden Lighting, John Rogers (metal work), Tom Mirza (hardscape), Concreteworks, and Fairyland staff including Robin North (landscaping) and Annie Wong (art).

Click Here for a slide show of the project

Click Here for an article about the project

Fairy Music Farm Project Overview

If you want your song to grow,
There is a special place to go
Where the fairies plant the sound,
And care for it underground

(from Fairy Music Farm Theme Song)

Re-imagining a play tunnel in Children’s Fairyland, the nation’s oldest storybook theme park, that had been closed for thirty years, the Fairy Music Farm creates a new and unique interactive multi-sensory attraction with a focus on music.

The Fairy Music Farm features unique instruments created to harmonize together, producing a symphony of sound. A landscaped courtyard features lyrics and music from the Fairy Music Farm Song (original music created specifically for the project) and a series of beautiful murals depicts fairies from a diversity of cultures and ethnicities as they work together to nurture a green pea with music.

Located between the park’s Pirate Ship and Play Island attractions, this 118 foot-long journey is designed especially for young children, ages two to five, to explore and create harmonious music in a tactilely, aurally and visually-rich adventuresome setting.

While the instruments are designed and placed at the ideal height and developmental level for two- to five-year-old children, younger toddlers, older siblings and caregivers will find the entire attraction pleasantly engrossing as well. Built in compliance with playground safety standards, the Fairy Music Farm is a safe, fun, educational, wondrous place to grow music and magic. The collaborative team of artists was lead by sculptor Lynne-Rachel Altman.

The Fairy Music Farm is designed for interactive learning. The sounds produced are a direct result of the players’ physical actions. This vital developmental experience enhances the proprioceptive knowledge of young visitors.

Social learning takes place as children explore differences between working solo, in duet, or as part of a larger ensemble. Reinforcing listening skills, the tunnel instruments are arranged to create a noticeable shift in dynamics and pitch, leading participants from a place of more active playing to gentler and quieter listening. Gross motor skills are flexed in a safe environment as children test their balance on a marimba bridge, run circles around the courtyard center and grow a large music-making flower. The series of seven murals, illustrating the life cycle of a pea, helps pre-literate children learn skills necessary to link visual narratives (a prerequisite for literacy acquisition) and exposes them to an early botany lesson.

By day, this richly textured and colorful environment is illuminated by natural light from four new skylights (installed in pre-existing ceiling openings) and five windows, as well as custom fixures. After hours, the environmentally friendl flourescent lights create a mystical nighttime experience suitable for private events. Additional outside lighting makes the courtyard also accessible for evening events.

The Fairy Music Farm was conceived and executed by a team of four artists working in various disciplines who live and work in Oakland and the East Bay. The entire project was a result of the collaborative concept of the team. Individually, each artist contributed elements of the whole.

Lynne-Rachel Altman: Sculptor, Lead Artist. Lynne-Rachel Altman’s hands-on elements are featured in the Fairy Music Farm courtyard, another place to enjoy the music flowing from inside the tunnel. At the center of the four-hundred-square-foot paved courtyard is the terazzo song cirlce serving as a focal point for children to sit on, scramble over and dance around. The sprial features a section of music from the Fairy Music Farm song is scripted into colorful pavers. These feature musical notes formed into the shape of seeds sprouting stems and leaves, as well as the lyrics: “There is a sound goes round and round/Under my feet, deep in the ground/The fairies make it with their wings/The perfect beat to help grow things.”

bench by AltmanThe courtyard features the concrete marimba bench (the bottom fabricated by Altman, the wooden keys by Schmidt); tapping the seats of this 8 foot bench creates beautiful resonant tones that dance around the courtyard.

Richard Jennings: Composer. Richard Jennings composed and recorded the original Fairy Music Farm Theme Song, with lyrics by Lynne-Rachel Altman. Click here to listen.

Daniel Schmidt, Instrument Designer & Builder. The unique instruments designed and fabricated by Daniel Schmidt for the Fairy Music Farm produce harmonious sounds that work alone or in concert with one another. Instruments include harmony chimes, musical leaves, wall harp, wall chimes, rain wheel, and tinkle bells – many of which are played by children running their hands over them as they move through the tunnel. The “Marimba Path,” featuring an eight-foot-long, fourteen-inch-high wooden bridge, invites visitors from the area of the Pirate Ship to the entrance of the Fairy Music Farm tunnel. As children move across the low-lying bridge they will delight as each footfall on the wooden planks creates a consonant musical tone.

Biliana Stremska: Mural Designer & Painter. As Fairyland visitors circle through the tunnel and courtyard, their aural and tactile journey is visually enhanced by a series of vivid murals by Biliana Stremska. Interspersed among the instruments on the tunnel’s interior walls, seven separate eight-foot-long murals feature a playful group of ethnically diverse, child-like fairies using music to nurture a growing green pea. While human Fairyland visitors explore and create their own music in the tunnel, they will enjoy the painted fairies busily working together to help the plant through its life cycle as it is placed in the ground, watered, protected, grown, harvested and then replanted. Additional fairies adorn the walls, using gestures to direct movement through the tunnel, and encouraging use of the instruments.

In November 2002 the voters of Oakland passed Measure DD, the Oakland Trust for Clean Water & Safe Parks. This $198.25 million dollar bond is funding a comprehensive ten-year plan to clean up and restore Lake Merritt, the Oakland Estuary Waterfront and Oakland’s creeks system by improving land/water quality and expanding recreational facilities, including Children’s Fairyland, for the benefit of Oakland citizens and visitors. The bond measure will generate approximately $2.8 million for public art projects pertaining to Measure DD.

The Fairy Music Farm is a Public art project commissioned by The City of Oakland Public Art Program, Cultural Arts & Marketing Division and Funded by The Oakland Trust for Clean Water and Safe Parks, Measure DD; City of Oakland Public Art Program; and Children’s Fairyland.

Click Here for a slide show of the project • Click Here for an article about the project