NMWA @ Home: Creative Coping with Christina Knowles and Lori Brubaker Morales

As NMWA remains temporarily closed due to COVID-19, along with other museums and cultural institutions around the world, we’ve been diligently working to bring the museum to you at home. In this series, we’ll check in with NMWA staff in their own homes for a personal look at the creative ways they’re staying connected, inspired, and grounded.

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Christina Knowles, director of development, annual giving, and membership

Renewing: Time seems to be standing still, yet the view from my window tells me otherwise. Nature is generously reminding me that a new season is just ahead. The green nubs along my front walk have unfurled into buoyant Hostas, tempting the deer that call our street home. My favorite blended Camellia tree has almost run its cycle with chipmunks gathering up the pink petals and feasting on them like cotton candy.

Camellia flower; Photo by Christina Knowles

Observing: The season unfolding is a daily meditation in seeing. Taking inspiration from Maria Sibylla Merian, I strive to hone the discipline of an observant eye and share her reverence for the magnificent architecture of the natural world. I strongly recommend her book Chrysalis: Maria Sibylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis.

Reading: As someone who appreciates a hand-written letter, I enjoy absorbing history through the intimate lens of individuals who put pen to paper. Letters of the Century: America 1900–1999 includes letters from inspiring women like Elaine de Kooning, Amelia Earhart, and Georgia O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe writes to art critic and friend Henry McBride, “The daylight is coming Henry McBride—I am going up on the roof and watch it come—we do such things here without being thought crazy—it is nice—isn’t it.”

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Lori Brubaker Morales, director of special events

Reflecting: For the first time in ages, I am in tune with spring. I recall being a young girl skipping home from school with the warm sun on my face, the birds chirping in the trees, the smell of the earth waking from winter. I was a child without a care in the world. Creation is speaking to me again. These memories remind me of a favorite poem by Emily Dickinson, “I have a Bird in spring.” I have rediscovered the beauty in her words.

Learning: Artist Rosa Bonheur’s powerful work is a favorite. Over the last weeks, I have read about her life. Like us, she was social distancing. At ten years old, she endured the cholera epidemic that swept through France—with no technology or modern conveniences. Surely, the struggle was great.

Rosa Bonheur, Sheep by the Sea, 1865; Oil on cradled panel, 12 3/4 x 18 in.; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Creating: Recently, I decided to bring out favorite dishes made by my mom and grandmothers. From my mom’s recipe file, I made her refreshing mandarin salad with sesame dressing, and from Grandma Brubakers’s catalog, I cooked up her famous Pennsylvania Dutch spare ribs with sauerkraut.

Energizing: Having loaded up on enough comfort foods and television for a lifetime, I designed my own dance-based exercise routine. If anyone saw me they’d laugh, but I am having fun dancing to Ella Fitzgerald, David Bowie, Aretha Franklin, Blondie, and Heart, just to name a few! As David Bowie sings, “Let’s dance!”