Arts & culture, Visual arts

Kids make their own storybooks at BAMPFA workshop

By Christopher Merchant


A dozen young imaginations were busy building a dozen fantasy worlds during a storybook workshop at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive on Sunday afternoon.

The kids wrote and drew their own short stories with the help of their parents and artists Iris and Travis Meinholf, who guided the free workshop. The stories were then printed as mini-zines on BAMPFA Art Lab’s risograph printer, and every family was presented with a copy of every story produced. The Art Lab also kept copies of the storybooks for preservation.

Two children watch as the pages of a storybook is printed

Louie Meinholf and Surya Robinson-Leuis watch as Robinson-Leuis’s storybook is printed. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Murphy)

“It’s great getting to meet other parents and kids and make art together,” said Iris Meinholf, who brought along her 4-year-old son, Louie. “And it’s free.”

The workshop is part of the Art Lab’s evolving series of hands-on projects with a focus on drawing, collage, prints and books. While BAMPFA has a large art collection and screens about 450 film programs a year, the Art Lab invites members of the community to make their own works of art.

Since most Bay Area kids are out of school for the summer, the Art Lab workshops give parents a great place to get involved in events as a family, said Oja Robinson, who brought her 5-year-old daughter, Surya Robinson-Leuis.

“There’s this energy when people are being creative together that’s different from when they’re on their own,” Robinson said, watching her daughter jump with excitement as her storybook was printed. A small crowd of children gathered to grab their copies of the story, which was about a girl named Vivian visiting her mother at work at a rainbow factory.

Joanna Katz, who brought her 7-year-old son, Benjamin, cited the convenience of BAMPFA’s proximity to the downtown Berkeley BART station.

A woman and her son make a storybook together

Joanna Katz and her 7-year-old son, Benjamin, at the storybook workshop. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Murphy)

“It was really nice to picnic right across the street on the Crescent Lawn,” said Katz, who graduated from Berkeley with a degree in comparative literation in 1994. “We can use BART to make it more fun, because public transportation is fun to Benjamin… And I was so excited it’s free.”

Benjamin’s story, about a mythical species of creatures called Wumps, was inspired by The Wump World by Bill Peet, a children’s book author active from the 1960s through the ’80s. The unofficial sequel may have been fanfiction, Katz said, but Benjamin insisted on personally writing all of the text and drawing all of the images.

The workshop was designed to give kids that kind of agency and freedom, Katz said.

“It’s important for kids to read, but it’s also empowering for kids to create and share,” Katz said.

To see the Art Lab’s full schedule of workshops and other events at BAMPFA, visit their calendar here .