City Lore Offers FREE Brown Spice Elves Doll Making Workshop For Children With Artist Julee Dickerson Thompson

October 31, 2023

City Lore, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is pleased to offer a free Brown Spice Elves Doll-making Workshop for children ages 6-12 years old.

The event is led by artist and arts educator Julee Dickerson Thompson at their Gallery located at 56 East 1st Street in Manhattan on Saturday, November 18, 2023, from 2 – 4 pm. The event is free, but registration is required.

Register at: Reserve your space hereSpace is limited please register only if you plan to attend.

The Brown Spice Elves workshop is interactive family-friendly doll-making workshop for children ages 6-12 accompanied by a parent or guardian. Pre-registration is required and the workshop will be capped at 15 people.  All materials will be provided. Sewing skills are a plus but not a requirement. Each participant will create a doll to take home.  Participants will learn how to make “Brown Spice Miniatures,” or small hand-sewn cloth dolls representative of Dickerson-Thompson’s signature inclusive aesthetic that is an homage to children and families of the African Diaspora. For over four decades, Dickerson-Thompson has been steadily building a family of dolls, accessories, and educational materials that speak to the diversity of Black experience in the United States and beyond.  She regularly offers Brown Spice Elves Workshops (mini doll making) as a component of her Young Masters (YM) curriculum and programming. A celebrated arts educator, these workshops are as much about family storytelling as they are hand craft creation. Participants will be encouraged to use their own family members and experiences as inspiration for their dolls, while being walked through the nuts and bolts of basic patterns and decoration. 

This workshop for children is one of a series of public programs designed as a complement to City Lore’s current exhibition, “The Calling: The Power of African American Doll and Puppet Making on view through March 3, 2023. Brown Spice Elves Workshop is a signature program of The Young Masters, Inc, a 501 (c)(3), community-based, non-profit organization that seeks to nurture and empower 21st Century artists. For more info:

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The Exhibit – On View until March 3, 2023 – “The Calling: The Transformative Power of African American Doll and Puppet Making,” is conceived and curated by Camila Bryce-Laporte, (a noted doll maker herself) in partnership with scholar Phyllis M. Machunda. This exhibition includes dolls and puppets created by a group of 26 nationally acclaimed multi-media artists from the African Diaspora, who came of age in communities in the United States during the height of the Civil Rights and Black Arts Movements. Using mixed media, these visual storytellers chronicle the history, identity, and culture of their communities. Compelled or “called” to continue the special and enduring tradition of Black doll making, these artists recognize that their works are healing and transformative for themselves and for the communities they represent. For more info and to see all artist bios:

Julee Dickerson-Thompson is an award-winning artist and D.C. native, who was nurtured in the Smithsonian museums, and the Workshops for Careers in the Arts (now, Duke Ellington School of the Arts)–arts institutions in her backyard. She continued her studies at Simmons University, Massachusetts College of Art, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Corcoran College of Art.  All her works integrate influences from her experiences in West Africa, the Caribbean, and France, through experimentation with mixed media, soft sculpture, quilts and dollmaking. Her work is featured in exhibits, collections, galleries, museums, and “alternative spaces” nationally and internationally.  She teaches dollmaking to children through the work of her nonprofit, Young Masters, Inc.

Education is core to City Lore’s mission of advancing cultural equity. We bring a uniquely cultural and decolonial lens to arts education by centering culturally rooted arts, including folk and traditional art practitioners, in meaningful ways that connect to young people’s own heritages, identities, experiences, and communities. We aim to bridge the gap between students’ school and home lives by inviting young people to investigate their neighborhoods, families, cultural traditions, and histories and to utilize this firsthand research in their art-making. Our programs draw on the rich cultural traditions and resources of the city’s many neighborhoods, and ethnic, linguistic, and artistic communities to support learning in the arts. We collaborate with traditional and folk artists, as well as contemporary artists whose work explores the themes of personal and community history and identity. 

City Lore Founded in 1986, and now an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution,  City Lore’s mission is to foster New York City’s – and America’s – living cultural heritage through education and public programs.  We document, present, and advocate for New York City’s grassroots cultures to ensure their living legacy in stories and histories, places and traditions.  We work in four cultural domains:  urban folklore and history; preservation; arts education; and grassroots poetry traditions. In each of these realms, we see ourselves as furthering cultural equity and modeling a better world with projects as dynamic and diverse as New York City itself.  For more info:

City Lore is made possible with generous support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, New York State Council on the Arts. New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The Sherman Foundation, Lily Auchincloss Foundation.

Photo credit: Selling DC.

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