Tuesday, April 14, 2015


                                LEONARDO DA VINCI

What do ice cream spoons, pencils, keys, rulers, mirrors, matches, buttons, clothespins, playing cards and knots all have in common?  While you might find them all in a junk drawer in your kitchen, that's not their primary connection.  In the past 21 years, they and many other objects have been the fascinating focus of the Eli Whitney Museum's Leonardo Challenge.

Located on the border between New Haven and Hamden, the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop, at 915 Whitney Avenue, is a treasure trove of creativity and inventiveness.  Encouraging students to learn by doing, it is dedicated to building minds as well as models, stimulating imaginations to experiment and discover.  From birds to bugs to blockheads, catapults to cars to colonial toys, children have been excited by the myriad possibilities at their disposal.

With creativity as practically its middle name, you wouldn't expect the Eli Whitney Museum to hold a run-of-the-mill traditional fundraiser.  After two decades, the Leonardo Challenge will now provide and provoke comments and enthusiasm as it offers "Uncharted Imagination" for new paths of discovery.

The ancient art of cartography, or map writing, will be given an infusion of imagination as the "material" from which one hundred artists from all over the country will be urged to make something novel and unconventional.  Each entry will be on display at the museum, revealed in all their unique glory, on Thursday, April 23 from 5:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. as part of the 21st Leonardo Challenge. The entries will continue to be on display, free and open to the public, for several weeks after the event.

Maps have been designed to chart land masses, the stars in the skies and the complexity of the seas.  Maps and Leonardo da Vinci are tied together.  While da Vinci is known for his endeavors as a mathematician, scientist, inventor, artist, sculptor, architect, musician and writer, he was also  well known as a cartographer, drawing maps for his elaborate engineering projects and even constructing a world map of the globe, naming the Americas, configuring the continents, with an ocean at the north pole and a continent at the south pole.

How fitting, therefore, that "uncharted imagination"is the  challenge for this year's artists who will use their unbridled directional senses to bloom with romantic flair.  The invitation, designed by Associate Director Sally Hill, is an artistic adventure for those willing to capture the whimsy and wisdom intricately trapped within its folds. For museum CEO and executive director Bill Brown, "maps are so ubiquitous that we take them for granted and not for what they are: a social architecture that connects us on many levels."

The evening will include the delicious spicy and crusty creations of the Big Green Pizza Trucks, the smooth flavorful cheeses of Caseus, the toothy and exotic breads and confections of Whole G's artisan bakers, the fresh and local offerings paired to the seasons from Small Kitchen, Big Taste, the around the globe liquid delights of Koffee's baristas and the Napa Valley spirits from Diageo Wines.

For reservations ($70, with additional levels of giving from $250-$2500), call the Eli Whitney Museum at 203-777-1833 (ask for Dana Clough) or online at www.eliwhitney.org.

What better way to support and encourage the budding child inventors of tomorrow, than by endowing the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop projects today.

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