Touring schools in Oppland County, Norway with a “Rainbow Workshop” and my “Picturebook Exhibition” (part 1)

This is my first ever blog. I want to tell about life on the road touring schools with my “Rainbow Workshop” and “Picturebook Exhibition” 10.11.2015 – 27.11.2015, for The Cultural Rucksack Oppland (DKS).

I have kept a diary for over 30 years, and once upon a time I wrote long letters from Norway home to my parents in Canada. Writing down my story then is nothing new. Now as Facebook and emails take more time, the diary gets sadly left behind. Yet on my 15th year of touring schools I am determined to start this blog. I grab pockets of time, writing on scraps of paper, in the computer, and now in this diary while waiting for a meal. And yet what does one write in a blog, compared to what one writes in a diary, on Facebook, in a letter, a novel, and where does it begin and when is it ever ready to publish?

However I thought I would begin at the beginning:

The planning for such a “Rainbow Workshop” and “Picturebook Exhibition” tour starts a year in advance: The DKS chooses a number of schools in proximity to each other, which days, which grades shall attend, and which times. They book the hotel and the rent-a-car. I contact the schools to discuss the details of how my exhibition and workshop can fit tailor-made into their rooms and time schedule, and could I please have 3-4 clever children to help me lay the workshop tables in the morning and clean and lay the tables between sessions?


Ready to leave Oslo for Gjøvik with paints and paintings. Monday 9.11.15

Touring schools for DKS is a labyrinth of expected and unexpected challenges. I love the focus such a tour allows as I strive to welcome such challenges as an exercise for staying human in a changing world. A so-called unexpected challenge might be arriving at a hotel and there is no one there, just a key and a note ; or having to re-route because of a landslide that is blocking the mountain road; or a hole in the hotel sink that I only notice after preparing my 90 glasses of paints and the coloured water has run through the hole and onto the floor; or in the middle of a painting-workshop the lights go out, while the janitor, I am told, is on holiday in the Canary Islands.


View over Randsfjorden, Oppland County

These uncertainties are balanced by pleasant surprises like a gourmet dinner in a spacious dining room, a beautiful view, a comfortable bed, a helpful host, a room by the sea, a drive over snow covered mountains, a bathtub, a sauna, spotting deer, spotting reindeer, getting to know the local band or the local history, tasting local food, meeting a fellow tourer as our paths crisscross, being asked an interesting question from a child, or the faces of the children helpers when I arrive with brushes frozen stiff from being packed wet in a frozen car. Then of course there is the turning of a classroom into an exhibition and workshop in 90 minutes, turning cleaning-up time into a game with 3 or 4 children, and most of all – the joy of seeing the rainbows appear under the hands of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, sometimes 5th, and even 6th graders.


A rainbow underway at Vestsida School, Oppland County, Tuesday 10.11.2015 Photo: Eli Muldbakken

And all this driving and planning and negotiating comes together in that moment the kids are painting the rainbows, like a concert of colour that is happening only in that moment. Like one teacher said while the kids were painting, “det er magi,” (this is magic) and when it was over, another teacher exclaimed “dette var helt fantastisk! (This was completely fantastic!)

The Cultural Rucksack (Den kulturelle skolesekken) is a national programme for art and culture in Norwegian schools. Since 2001 it has been part of the government’s cultural policy for primary and lower secondary schools. As a joint initiative of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education and Research, the programme enables children and young people to enjoy artistic and cultural productions provided by professionals within a wide range of fields.


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Categories: Teaching and Workshops, Picturebooks, and Art in Public and Private Spaces.


  1. Harvie Cocks

    Stella: One gets an excellent sense of your tours. Your should add writing to your artistic activities.
    All the best,

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