Videographer Gets Hands On Experience at Children's Museum
In profile, Sebastian Lasbo ’13 squints in bright sun toward a camera lens, head and shoulders visible through a square window. He is standing in what looks to be a small house made of whirled twigs, climbing toward a peaked, tufted roof.
There are several similar structures—leaning on each other with various degrees of whimsy—being constructed at the Hands On Children’s Museum in downtown Olympia. Perspiring volunteers drag large bundles of green vine maple, acer circinatum, around the work yard, while others strip leaves from slender branches. Atop a scaffold, artist Patrick Dougherty works quietly to weave more branches into one of the structures, occasionally speaking to his crew as they move branches into place. The structures, six towers in all, comprise the first exhibit in the museum’s new half-acre Outdoor Discovery Center, specifically designed to reconnect children to nature.
Behind the video camera, Evergreen video producer and individual learning contract sponsor Dave Cramton takes a light reading, studying the glare on Lasbo’s face as they prepare to talk on camera with some of the volunteers assisting Dougherty.
It’s a three-week construction project for Dougherty and his team to build this hamlet of stick sculptures, whose nooks, crannies and secret tunnels are irresistible to kids. And it’s a three-week video project for Lasbo, who documented Dougherty's work for an independent study contract during his final quarter at Evergreen.
For Lasbo, the experience was marked by generosity, from Dougherty and from Cramton. “Dougherty was very approachable, and gave me some good advice as an artist,” says Lasbo. “He said to be ready to work 20 years before you will be taken seriously, as an artist, sculptor or filmmaker.”
Dougherty’s structures are “cursive,” drawn with loops and curves. A nationally known artist, he has built similar works throughout the U.S., using local materials. Vine maple branches were used by Coastal Salish for baskets, cradles and fish traps. The lanky small trees used in Dougherty’s project in Olympia were harvested in southern Thurston County and should last three to four years before they naturally biodegrade into mulch, according to Genevieve Chan, communications manager for the Hands On Children’s Museum.
When the museum approached Cramton with the idea for video documentation, he recognized it as an excellent opportunity for a student. "Sally Cloninger, emeritus faculty, recommended Sebastian as a student for the project. In talking to him, it became apparent that he had the skills and talent to do a great job with the video. It was an excellent collaboration for both of us," said Cramton.
“Dave knows a lot about time-lapse photography, but he thought I had some good ideas on the creative side, with the editing, interviews and storytelling, so he let me take the lead,” Lasbo recalls. “After that, Dave stepped back, saying I’m here to help and assist if you need it, but this is your project now.”
Lasbo’s video, which can be watched on Vimeo, is now a key piece in his portfolio, and is currently featured on the website of the Hands On Children’s Museum.
“Evergreen alumni volunteered to help Patrick build the sculpture, and an Evergreen student captured the experience on video, guided by an Evergreen staff member,” says Sarah Rumbaugh MES ’93, secretary of The Evergreen State College Foundation Board of Governors and capital campaign manager at the museum. “I think this project is the perfect Evergreen experience.”