Summer escape: Fairytale Fiesta exhibit at the Witte Museum

How will you escape the heat this summer? Two of my favorite ways are swimming in the pool and going to air-conditioned museums. The Witte Museum has plenty of air conditioning, as well as free covered parking in the shady Brackenridge Park garage. And, to take the escapism to the next level, the sparkly gowns of Fairytale Fiesta will be on display in the Betty Coates Textile Gallery through August 24, 2014.

Fairytale Fiesta at the Witte Museum | San Antonio Charter Moms

Every year, the Witte organizes an official exhibit for Fiesta San Antonio, an annual celebration with roots in the story of Texas independence. For a little Fiesta history, see “The Alamo is special (even if you weren’t born in San Antonio)”, Inga Cotton, Alamo City Moms Blog, April 17, 2014.

Fiesta San Antonio official flag | San Antonio Charter Moms

The original Fiesta event, the Battle of the Flowers Parade, features Fiesta royalty, including the Queen of the Order of the Alamo and her duchesses, riding floats while wearing sparkling gowns with long trains. For a slideshow of the 2014 parade, see “Scenes from the Battle of Flowers Parade”, Josh Baugh, Michelle Casady, Kolten Parker, San Antonio Express-News, April 25, 2014; for historical images, see “Fiesta Queens over the years”, Merissa Brown, mySA.com. (I can’t resist making a charter school connection here: congratulations to IDEA Public Schools; their float tied for third place in the civic/educational category. “Winners of the Battle of Flowers, Cavaliers’ River parades”, Elaine Ayala, San Antonio Express-News, May 1, 2014.)

For Fairytale Fiesta, the curators at the Witte have selected vintage Fiesta gowns with a common theme: fairy tale motifs. These gowns can be appreciated for their beauty and craftsmanship, but also for the creative ways they represent fairy tale stories on the surfaces of the gowns.

My daughter, G.N., has a clear favorite for beauty: the flaming cauldron, inspired by the witches of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

Fairytale Fiesta at the Witte Museum - flames | San Antonio Charter Moms

Duchess of Infernal Deeds (1960)

G.N. also likes the gingerbread men on the Black Forest-themed dress.

Fairytale Fiesta at the Witte Museum - gingerbread men | San Antonio Charter Moms

Duchess of the Black Forest (1962)

Beyond the beauty of the gowns, the fairy tale source materials provide an opportunity for a summer brain boost.

After admiring the “Peter and the Wolf ” dress, inspired by the music of Prokofiev, your family could listen to an audio recording (example) or watch a video (example). The San Antonio Symphony performed “Peter and the Wolf” this season; here is my earlier post.

Fairytale Fiesta at the Witte Museum - Peter and the Wolf | San Antonio Charter Moms

Duchess of Youthful Enthusiasm (1983)

After seeing the “Princess and the Pea” dress, you and your kids could learn more about fairy tales in books. The story we know as “The Princess and the Pea” is based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale, The Real Princess. You can buy beautiful editions of this story for your home library, or check out books for free at the library. For suggestions about how to get your kids interested in the books you bring home, see “San Antonio Book Festival: 5 Ways to Get Excited”, Veronica Rouse, Seven Lovely Things, February 27, 2014.

Fairytale Fiesta at the Witte Museum - The Princess and the Pea | San Antonio Charter Moms

Duchess of Romantic Destiny (1983)

My friend Veronica is also an ambassador for Barefoot Books, a children’s book press that offers a good selection of classics and fairy tales, as well as multicultural and bilingual titles; see more in this earlier post. I asked Veronica for recommendations from the Barefoot Books catalog. (Note: these links take you to her online store.)

The San Antonio Public Library collection offers a wide variety of fairy tale books, as well as audio and video recordings. (Both of the “Peter and the Wolf” recordings mentioned earlier are also available free at the library.) This earlier post has tips for searching the library catalog; or, ask a librarian—they are always eager to help.

To find The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen (including “The Real Princess”), do a Basic search for annotated andersen. The catalog will show:

Searching for fairy tales in the San Antonio Public Library catalog | San Antonio Charter Moms

There are many fine fairy tale collections besides Andersen’s, but he had an especially fertile imagination, and lately his stories have crossed over into popular culture in spectacular fashion. Did you know that the animated movie Frozen (2013) is based on another Andersen story, The Snow Queen? “How ‘Frozen’ Director Jennifer Lee reinvented the story of The Snow Queen”, Nicole Laporte, Fast Company, February 28, 2014. If Frozen mania has taken over your house, too, then laugh along with “Dear Disney {A Letter Concerning Frozen}”, Brooke Meabon, Alamo City Moms Blog, March 20, 2014. Just to be clear: there are no Frozen dresses in this exhibit; I don’t want to break any frosty little hearts.

Speaking of Disney movies, The Little Mermaid (1989) is also based on an Anderson story of the same name. Yes, there is a mermaid dress in Fairytale Fiesta.

Fairytale Fiesta at the Witte Museum - The Little Mermaid | San Antonio Charter Moms

Duchess of Coral Depths (1960)

While we are on the topic of princesses, here is my mini-lecture:

Please teach your girls that princess-ness is not just about fancy dresses and ordering people around; it’s also about kindness, generosity, and leadership.

Princess-ness is about kindness, generosity, leadership | San Antonio Charter Moms

Read more about the Fairytale Fiesta exhibit:

In addition to Fairytale Fiesta, there is lots more to see at the Witte. Alien Worlds and Androids is open until May 27, 2014; read more: “Alien Worlds and Androids: Take a Journey of Science and Creativity at the Witte Museum”, Inga Cotton, Alamo City Moms Blog, February 25, 2014.

The South Texas Heritage Center opened in 2012; learn more in this earlier post and at “Howdy, partners. There’s a new ‘Cowboy Museum’ in town”, Colleen Pence, San Antonio Mom Blogs, May 14, 2012.

And the treehouse will reopen soon, on May 24, 2014, as the H-E-B Body Adventure.

This summer, I encourage you to take a moment to cool off inside the Witte, admire the beautiful dresses of Fairytale Fiesta, and keep your kids’ minds stimulated by learning about classic fairy tales.

Please continue the discussion by leaving a comment: What is your favorite fairy tale? Do you have a favorite book or movie that is based on a fairy tale?

sachartermoms

Parent-activist and education blogger in San Antonio, Texas, USA. Helping parents make informed school choices and explore cultural activities.

4 Comments

  1. These dresses are fabulous & meticulously gorgeous! I love original fairy tales. I have Hans christian Anderson & brothers Grimm fairy tale books.

  2. Those dresses are FAB!!!!! This is something I want to do with the kiddos. I can see Talulah’s reaction already. As a kid I loved tThe Pricess and the Pea. My Grandmother would read me that story all the time.

  3. We enjoy Charles Perrault fairy tales too – Beauty and the Beast is a favorite. I knew the story was excellent when I read it to my then 5yo ds and he asked “What is virtue?” when I was finished. Beauty showed virtue throughout the story – that was her true beauty. I would also recommend getting these fairy tales on audio for free from http://www.librivox.org. Librivox provides free readings, that you can download or use in itunes, of stories in the public domain (published before 1923). Andrew Lang’s collection (there are 11 different books) have many of the most popular stories. Most people would be familiar with the stories in the Blue Fairy Tale book and the Orange Fairy Tale book. If you search for Andrew Lang Fairy Tales you can also find the full text of them all, for free, online to read. If you want voices you know are great Rabbit Ears also has some audio recordings of fairy tales done by current actors – we get them at the library. Some of the original versions can get a little gory – but the intent was to help kids learn to deal with death, bad choices, untrustworthy characters in stories and conversation before they met them in real life. They are cautionary tales. The dresses are incredible!

  4. Love your quote about teaching little girls what princess-ness is about – so true. While I do like a traditional fairytale, I’ve always loved Roald Dahl’s twists on the traditional in his “Revolting Rhymes” – great for the kids that are getting “too cool” for a sweet fairytale!

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