Archive for April, 2009

Slavery Mural at the Georgia Department of Agriculture

Written on April 29, 2009 at 11:58 am, by Lain Shakespeare

Yesterday’s AJC featured an article on the slavery mural that’s prominently featured at the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Slavery Mural at the Georgia Department of Agriculture

The mural is part of a visual timeline that commemorates the history of agriculture in Georgia.  Many have questioned the appropriateness of this particular image, completed in 1956.

The article is well-worth your time, but I’ll go ahead and give you the central question — if the history is painful, should it be treated differently than the history that’s not as painful?

My answer is: of course, dummies!*  This argument is all about context.  If you’re going to, say, the new Illinois Holocaust Museum or the pending Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum, you know what you’re getting into.

If you’re looking to talk to someone about peanuts (or whatever a visitor might do at the Department of Agriculture), an image of slavery might (understandably) be jarring.

This problem would be easily solved with a respectful, permanent, and visible explanation on display nearby instead of a photocopied handout.

In a parallel vein, if our museum didn’t explain anything about the phrase “tar baby,” folks might also infer that the term “reinforces an image of blacks’ subservience to white people.”  But when our storytellers explain that the tar baby stories descend from the African “sticky hair” stories via enslaved Africans, it presents a totally different perspective.

Thanks for the link, jamieg.  And photograph courtesy of Kimberly Smith for the AJC.

* I am, of course, referring to the royal “dummies.”

West End Tour of Homes Opening Concert at The Wren’s Nest

Written on April 28, 2009 at 3:58 pm, by Amelia

Did you know the Wren’s Nest is hosting a concert this Friday?

You didn’t?  Well, surprise!  We are.  It’s the kick-off concert for the West End Tour of Homes, and will feature “great” Maria Howell.

I’m pretty sure the website means to say “the great” Maria Howell, since she is anything but large, but maybe it’s in the awesome sense, which would be legit.  I digress.

If you’re interested in spending a lovely evening in the Wren’s Nest amphitheater, you can buy tickets for a mere $25.  Plus, you get to bring your own dinner, which means macaroni covered in cheese dip for me!  Check out last year’s fun here — sadly, no cheese dip photos included.

And while the concert will be a delight and at the Wren’s Nest, don’t forget the Tour of Homes itself!

The West End is a historic district, after all, and many of the homes have been painstakingly maintained and restored. Reminds me of another house I know, in fact.  Here’s the AJC’s slide show for last year’s tour.

Hope to see you there — don’t forget your candleabra!

Wren’s Nest Conservation Project – Before and After Interior Photos

Written on April 22, 2009 at 10:16 am, by Lain Shakespeare

IFACS has finished cleaning and restoring the interior of the Wren’s Nest.  The house looks, feels, and smells delicious.

Mary Cleans a portrait of Joel Chandler Harris

Check out our Facebook album, filled with before and after photos.  Don’t worry – you do not need to have a Facebook account to look at them.  But if you do have a Facebook account, ask yourself: are you a fan of the Wren’s Nest?

IFACS ended up completing more work than they said they would.  It’s too much to chronicle in just one picture album, so I’ve included their report on works completed (.pdf).

I’m pretty thrilled.  The Wren’s Nest received over 600 hours of conservation work at a great value — IFACS did this project at cost.

“West End Remembers” Mural Commissioned by City of Atlanta

Written on April 20, 2009 at 10:05 am, by Amelia

On Friday Creative Loafing published a blog post about the commission of a new mural to be painted in the West End, just a few blocks from here.

The mural is slated to be the very first of what will hopefully be many public art projects incorporated into the Beltline.

The intersection, sort of, of Lawton and White Streets

As you may recall, the Beltline broke ground first in the West End.  A lovely bike path has been installed, complete with a new park and the beginnings of an arboretum.  Right now, the trees are a little weenie.  It’s not their fault.

As projects like the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Porgram have long proven, murals can be a great way to give folks ownership of public space and connect individuals with their communities .  Plus, they’re pretty.

When Lain and I went on the Beltline tour a few weeks ago, there was a lot of talk of art being incorporated into the project.  And now it’s starting!  So close to us, no less.

Good work, Beltline.  I still like you so much.

Wren’s Nest Conservation Update – Painting the House Part 3 and the Copper Pipe Dilemma

Written on April 15, 2009 at 2:10 pm, by Lain Shakespeare

We’re just about finished painting the Wren’s Nest.  The painters are detailing the porch and should be done within a day or two.

The Wren's Nest with a fresh coat of paint

The monsoon season that Atlanta has seen this spring slowed our roll a little.

Like the yellow, the trim color is a little bit different than before —

The trim on the Wren's Nest is a little less red.

Some of the color difference is due to weathering, but some of it is also due to our historical paint analysis, completed after the house was last painted.

The paint job has made a tremendous difference.  Here’s what one back corner used to look like —

The back of the Wren's Nest before painting

And here’s the same area now —

The back of the Wren's Nest after painting

If you’re using your eyes, you might notice that we now have copper drain pipes.  If you’re using your brains, you might wonder if this is a risky proposition.

I’m here to tell you — it is!  Depending on the price of copper, theft can be a serious issue.

Before, we’d had a mix of copper and galvanized piping.  We decided to install the copper pipes after much deliberation.

If the copper gets stolen, it’ll be my fault.  We’ll replace ’em with galvanized metal, and chalk it up to stupidity, idealism, or mismanagement.  All of the above is another option, but it’s one that I’m more comfortable with than not trying at all.

Here are some rather leading questions you may have —

  1. Say, isn’t copper historically accurate?
  2. I could understand installing copper in a swanky neighborhood like Buckhead, but in West End?
  3. Isn’t this proposition a little bit like the moral dilemma Alexander Hamilton faced when dueling with Aaron Burr?

And here are my answers —

  1. You betcha.
  2. I don’t think that criminals discriminate; we probably shouldn’t either.
  3. Maybe a little bit, yes.*  At least at the 1:40 mark.

Anyway, copper?  What copper?  Nothing to see here.  Just new paint.

The back of the Wren's Nest

* The Wren’s Nest does not condone binge drinking, not even for the sake of history or telling a good story.  Well, maybe this one time.

William Morris and His Brer Rabbit Wallpaper

Written on April 14, 2009 at 11:50 am, by Lain Shakespeare

William Morris — artist, designer, preservationist, and man with an extensive Wikipedia page — designed Brer Rabbit Wallpaper.  The staff of the Wren’s Nest just discovered this fact.

William Morris Brer Rabbit Wallpaper

Apparently, we have been under a rock for quite some time.

Morris released the design in mid-1882, 18 months after Joel Chandler Harris released Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings in the United States.

It’s amazing how quickly the Brer Rabbit stories skipped across the pond.  Not only did Morris have time to come up with this design in less than two years, but also Rudyard Kipling (b. 1865) memorized the stories in school around the same time.

You can still order the wallpaper (or drapes!) in different colors.  Run, don’t walk, to the Morris and Co. website to grab a sample.

Wren’s Nest Visitor Drops Brer Rabbit Album With Dialect

Written on April 10, 2009 at 11:06 am, by Lain Shakespeare

Today a gentleman visiting from California stopped in for our Buy-1-Get-1-Free Spring Break (Woo!) Storytelling Extravaganza.  Naturally, he was delighted.

After the tour, he handed me a CD’s worth of Brer Rabbit stories that he recorded. Here, take a listen —

Stephen Allman – The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I was surprised to find out that Stephen isn’t a professional storyteller.  The production quality is great, he has a wonderful voice, and he can tell a good story.  The folks that heard his versions here were disappointed he didn’t have CDs for sale.

Stephen was struck by the Brer Rabbit stories he heard as a child, often told to him in Gullah or Geechee dialects.  So unlike our storytellers, Stephen has employed dialect in these versions, like Joel Chandler Harris did when originally recorded the stories.

To some, this is the most controversial aspect of Harris’s work.

The argument goes something like this — Harris’s use of dialect is insulting and stereotypical, especially from someone who has essentially hijacked and homogenized an important portion of African-American culture.  He stinks.

Stephen Allman – The Briar Patch

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

To others, employing dialect is one of the most important parts of Harris’s work.

Their argument goes like this — Harris carefully preserved a vital part of culture, speech, and history, while also becoming one of the first Americans to present black culture to a wide audience with respect.  He should have a halo when you picture him.

What do you think of Stephen’s stories?  Think we should sell his CD at the Wren’s Nest?

What about the dialect in the stories?  Does it make you smile?  Does it make you cringe?

Does it matter that Stephen is white?  Would your perception be different if he were black?  Is the presentation politically correct or politically incorrect?  Does that matter?


Spring Break (Woo!) Storytelling Extravaganza Update

Written on April 9, 2009 at 11:28 am, by Lain Shakespeare

Our Spring Break (Woo!) Storytelling Extravaganza is a hit!

We’ve had so many people here this week that I haven’t gotten anything done.  Thankfully, it’s a nice day and storytelling is outside.  I can finally take a nap at my desk.

Here’s what our backyard looks like right now —

Woodie Persons Telling Stories

And here’s what it sounds like —

Woodie Persons – Brer Rabbit Takes a Ride

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Visit us tomorrow for the last day of noon storytelling and Buy-1-Get-1-Free Admission.  And please say howdy!  I’ll be the one passed out in the corner.

1 Comment

Categories: Storytelling |

Flat Stanley Loves The Wren’s Nest, I’m Just Saying

Written on April 8, 2009 at 6:44 am, by Amelia

Have you met Flat Stanley?

Years ago Stanley had the misfortune of being flattened by a bulletin board.  He’s made the best of his situation for decades and traveled around the world by envelope.

Flat Stanley and Boiled Peanuts

As someone who has had the pleasure of buying a lot of plane tickets lately, I have to say, I’m a tad envious.

Really, the Flat Stanley Project is a teaching tool for young students to learn about correspondence (and awesome places like The Wren’s Nest and a cauldron full of boiled peanuts).  Last week, Lain and I each received a Flat Stanley and a delightful hand-written letter from two first grade students in Illinois.

As you may have guessed, we have taken our responsibilities very seriously.  The four of us have been all over the place, having a grand old time — even suburbia.

Flat Stanley, Not Enjoying 19/41

Well, that was probably the least grand part.

Are  you looking for a good place to visit with your Flat Stanley?  Might I suggest The Wren’s Nest?  I assure you, should you arrive at our Spring Break (Woo!) Storytelling Extravaganza this week with Stanley in tow, he will be treated like a (paper) king.

Send in Your Brer Rabbit Reviews, Children!

Written on April 4, 2009 at 12:52 pm, by Amelia, one of my favorite blogs, recently featured The Spaghetti Book Club, a website devoted to “Book Reviews By Kids For Kids.”  As you may have guessed, the reviews are hilarious and awesome.

For example, one of my favorite books when I was little (I’m very tall now) was Cloudy with a Chance of MeatballsCheck out the review!  You’re right, J.D. Age 7, it is funny to see food falling from the sky!

The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food was also a favorite (apparently I only liked books about food) and boy, does Kevin S. capture the magic! Pants ripping does a favorite character make, I tell you what.

The only problem with this goldmine?  No Brer Rabbit stories!  As the Spaghetti reviewers would say, what the heck?!

Dear reader, let’s change this — together.

The Wren’s Nest is looking for reviews of Brer Rabbit stories and books from children ages 9 and under.


For their trouble, we’ll send them a Wren’s Nest t-shirt AND feature their review on our website.  In short, we will make them both stylish and famous.  Pretty good, right?

You can send reviews via email to me at, or just mail the whole shebang all old-fashioned-like to the Nest.  Pictures not only appreciated but cherished forever and always.