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Kirk Vaughn Robinson is a multi-talented author, sculptor and opera singer who came up with the idea for a whimsical and educational children's book in only five minutes. Kirk teamed up with Fontenelle Forest to entertain and educate not only children, but all of us as to the ways of the woods.

Kirk, a visual artist, opted to study music and received a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance before touring with The Phantom of the Opera for 12 years. The tour ended in October of 2010, and Kirk moved to Council Bluffs where he now lives and works in Harvester Artist Lofts creating beautiful art pieces that are available for purchase.

Kirk's sculptures are what led to a three month Artist in Residency at Fontenelle Forest in Bellevue, NE. During this time Kirk completed 3 large scale public art pieces for the Smithsonian sponsored Green Revolution, one of which was entitled Kit and the Very Large Beast. "I wanted to go back to the whimsy of playing in the woods as a child," says Kirk. "But I wanted the whimsy of the sculpture to be a counterpoint to the facts and science, which is usually the focus at a teaching/learning facility."

Kirk felt that no one would know what the sculpture was about, so at a meeting with Fontenelle staff members, he purposed writing and illustrating a children's book and came up with the idea right on the spot about Kit and The Very Large Beast. "I came up with the story in five minutes! Everyone loved it so we decided to pair the sculpture with a children's book."

The Chorus of the Forest is a clever, rhyming, thoughtful story that will grow the imagination of anyone who reads it. Kit, our main character, has a rough day at school being laughed at by classmates. Missing the bus, Kit has to walk home through the Fontenelle Forest and stumbles across a very large beast. Kit brings the Very Large Beast home and soon discovers that taking a living creature out of the forest is not only potentially harmful to the creature, but to us all.

The lessons from The Chorus in the Forest are many. Kirk gives us a male teacher and a female park ranger, switching usual gender roles. Both Kit and the Beast are fairly undefined letting the reader discover who they are. And perhaps, most importantly, The Chorus of the Forest explains why animals, birds and plants need to stay in the forest as they all make one large chorus; if one is missing you change the harmony and balance.

For more information, to schedule a school visit or to purchase your copy visit TheChorusOfTheForest.com or fontenelleforest.org.

Questions and Answers with Kirk Vaughn Robinson

1. Growing up in northern Indiana, in an age without cell phones or iPads, taught you what?
That the imagination of a child is an amazing world. We lived on seven acres of woods where every tree stump was a stage or a spaceship and every animal was a sacred teacher and muse.  

2. What was one lesson your parents taught you that you still use today?
There are so many! Both of my parents were so encouraging to me and my sister. I think that we felt that with hard work, we could accomplish everything that we set out to do

3. Why is it important to teach kids about respect of the forest?
I think that when kids are taught to see the beauty and worth in the natural world they learn to apply those lessons in all aspects of their lives.  Nature is such an amazing classroom if we take the time to look, watch and listen.

4. How difficult is it to take an idea and put it into words or a sculpture?
It's a bit like breathing and feels very natural and organic to me.  Often times it's just the act of sitting in silence and asking "What next?" and a picture or an idea will pop in my head and I give myself permission to walk towards it, explore it and then express it.

5. What is more difficult, the writing or sculpting process?
They are such different processes.  I get very meditative and focused when I'm sculpting. I only see the picture in my head of the final piece, my hands, and the clay. I feel very encapsulated.  When I write, my mind's eye is looking outward and describing what I'm seeing and how it makes me or a character I'm writing about, feel. I think the most difficult part is picking up the pen and paper or pulling out the lump of clay to work.

6. What encouragement do you have for the adult who wants to try to grow their inner talents?
For many of us it's really a matter of stepping away from the fear of failure. I think Picasso said it best- "Every child is an artist. The challenge is remaining one when you grow up." I think that it's also listening to your heart's desire and being brave enough to take its hand and walk with it.

7. If you were not sculpting or writing, what would you be doing?
I'm a trained opera singer, so probably something to do with music. I think make-up special effects or set design are also things that I would love to explore.

8. If you could meet one person, living or not, who would that be and why?
I think that changes as I learn about new people. Right now I would love to meet and have the opportunity to talk with the singer Brandi Carlile.  The words to her songs, the melodies, the way that her unique voice sings them, all speak to my soul and where I am in life right now.

9. If you could travel to one place on earth where would you go?
That's an easy one…Colorado, up in the mountains.

10. If you could have one super power what would that be?
King Midas's touch.

Lauren Hathaway

Omaha Family Magazine

Omaha Family is a free monthly publication that targets expectant and experienced parents, grandparents, teachers and caregivers of children from infancy through adolescence. Readers depend on Omaha Family as a local resource to educate and inform them about new products, entertainment, goods and services. Features and columns focus on issues such as childcare, family life, private and public education, health and fitness, summer camps, and birthday parties. Founder/Publisher for Omaha Family ...

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