Cows Can Dream (Kor Kan Drömma) opened at the American Swedish Institute on Saturday, January 21st and runs through October 31, 2017. I’ve been noticing that when ASI introduces something that I’ve never heard of, before long it is a trend that I start seeing everywhere. For instance, Moomin is everywhere now, but I had to research him when ASI introduced him. I think this may be the case with Cows Can Dream, a book and exhibit that were originally commissioned by an art institute in Sweden, Wanås Konst. Currently, you won’t find the book at the library or on Amazon. You’ll have to pick it up in the gift shop at ASI.
UPDATE: Cows Can Dream is no longer at the American Swedish Institute. However, the book is still available in the gift shop. Find the latest Family Gallery exhibit here.
Cows Can Dream – The Exhibit
ASI has converted their family gallery into a set of the book, Cows Can Dream. The fun thing about visiting this exhibit with a group of mixed-aged children is that it can be experienced at a variety of levels. My toddler and preschooler enjoyed the interactive portions of the exhibit. They liked playing kitchen and milking the cows. On a quiet day, I could imagine spending a great deal of time in this gallery letting them make believe.
My grade school aged son liked the make believe, too, but he also enjoyed the beanbag chairs where he could page through the book. Maria Bajt, the artist, explained to me that one of the challenges she enjoyed in creating this space for children was to consider how kids would use the space, how they move, and how their perspective would be different from a full-size adult. Lying on the beanbags gives you a bit of that perspective.
I took my middle school daughter and husband across the hall to show them the slide show of the Wanås Konst property. I told them about the background of the art institute and showed them how elements of the sculpture garden could be found in the exhibit and book. As with the smaller kids, we could come back on a quiet day and spend a good deal of time exploring this connection.
Cows Can Dream – The Book
Like the exhibit, the book, can be enjoyed by multiple ages. The story is a bit long for the littlest kids, but they like the bright colored pictures and cut-outs. I’ve been experimenting with using guided meditation to help my toddler sleep and have found this book to be well suited for a bedtime story. It can be read in a dreamy, sleepy voice. The length gives my tot time to relax, while the pictures hold her attention, in theory. (In reality, I have about 50/50 success with getting her to sleep using guided meditation, with or without the proper book. However, 50% is an improvement for us and we are struggling along with it for now.)
The actual story in Cows Can Dream is best aimed at preschool to grade school. One note of caution, the cutouts can be easily ripped. When dealing with younger or less careful children, you may want to keep this book up to bring down to enjoy together. This is a book that could be enjoyed through childhood and saved into adulthood.
A game that could be played with the book is to look at photos from from Wanås Konst’s website and have your kids find the items in the artwork of the book. Depending on their interest, you can pick out how the original is the same and how it is different.
The Background of Cows Can Dream
Kor Kan Drömma is part of a series commissioned by the Wanås Konst – Center for Art and Education. Since 2011, they have been pairing contemporary artists with influential writers who do not usually work with children’s material. Each pair is asked to write a book to help children explore the art of the Wanås Sculpture Park both in reality and in their imaginations. Each pair uses a character named, Sam, as their protagonist; but Sam is different in each book.
Cows Can Dream was the result of a collaboration between Jason Diakité and Maria Bajt. It’s possible you know Diakité as Swedish Grammy winner, Timbuktu. Bajt and Diakité tell the story of Sam at Wanås – the cow who can dream. Diakité was inspired by the organic dairy farm run on the art institution’s property.
Wanås Konst is a sculpture garden and art institute built on the property of a Count and Countess. Besides the art, the property has the organic dairy and a historic castle. The illustrations reflect the various sculptures that can be found throughout the Wanås Property.
Diakité’s mother, who is from the U.S., translated the book into English.
I had a chance to meet with artist, Maria Bajt, as she was finishing up the exhibit. She lives and works in Stockholm and Berlin, but while she was creating the art for Cows Can Dream, she was living in Mexico. You’ll see elements of her surroundings in her color choices for the book and exhibit.
This is actually her third time re-creating the book as an exhibit. Each space has been different. Because the Turnblad Mansion is an historic building, she was not able to make any changes to the room itself. Her entire exhibit needed to be freestanding. Unlike with previous exhibits, she created freestanding sculptures of the grass, which she made in Sweden and brought with her to finish in Minneapolis. Bajt had the chance to create the carpet for the installation at ASI. She designed it based on the story; and then ASI worked with a local printer to bring it to life.
Cows Can Dream was at the American Swedish Institute in the Family Gallery from January through October, 2017. ASI will offers different activities to go with Family Gallery exhibits throughout the year.
I received free admission and a copy of the book to facilitate my review.