Rockwell Comes to Life in Joplin: a chance to make art as a community

pairing #1- original norman rockwell cover


I’m doing a project with local art gallery Spiva. Community teams (which can be any family, business, group of friends, or individual) will have a chance to take part by creating their own ‘Norman Rockwell’ scene based off of a Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. The scene can be interpreted any way the team likes- and that can be as outlandish as you want. 🙂 It will be entered in a contest for best scene, and I will photograph each of the ‘scenes’ the evening of October 21st. All teams will receive a photo of their Post cover interpretation.

My own example scene is pictured below, next to the original. If you live in the Joplin MO area and would like to do this, please register ASAP with Spiva (e-mail me for info or Spiva at sconroy [at] spivaarts [dot] org)…the deadline to register is October 14. Go forth! Do it!


I recently talked about a new project in collaboration with Spiva Center For the Arts here in Joplin, MO: an idea that I think could spark a very fun new movement. THESE are the kind of ideas I get excited about. 🙂 And I think this one is important… because our  art culture here is poised to explode, but only if people join the collaborations and set an example for future projects.

So here’s the synopsis of the project, once more, from Spiva: ‘Teams select a Rockwell illustration to interpret, provide their own costumes and props and pose for a photo October 26. Mark Neuenschwander, 9art Photography, will photograph the reenactments and display them in Spiva’s 3rd Street window gallery. Winning image will be selected by popular vote and will receive a Norman Rockwell prize package. All teams receive one complimentary copy of their photograph.’  [there will be a $25 fee for each ‘team’].

First things first… I actually made a mistake the last time I posted this. the registration date is OCTOBER 14th:: that’s… yep… 5 days away. But all you have to do in that amount of time is decide if you are doing this and e-mail Spiva or me to register.

The next step is to brainstorm on an idea, and collect the ‘props’ for it… and you can totally do that!! Then set aside the 21st as the actual shoot date… images will be taken that evening AT spiva, of the different ‘scenes’ that participants have created. Remember, these scenes do NOT have to be exact replications of the originals. The project has more to do with interpreting that original image in whatever way you like. And if you are indeed doing this with human models and don’t know yet who your ‘models’ are (assuming they are not your own team members), remember that many of the covers are centered around just one person.

Steampunk? Wild West? Modern times? Sci fi? original time period? Whatever you want to do. 🙂 Just drop by Spiva to get ideas by perusing their current Rockwell exhibit, or do an image search for ‘Norman Rockwell Saturday evening post covers’ right now. I promise something will spring to mind once you start scanning through these fun images.

And, as a final thought for participants, this could end up being a very fun ‘art piece’ for your own home or office, if you do this as a business, a family, or even an individual; you’ll receive a print of your scene (and can purchase additional if you’d like), and you can pair it, as I’ve done below, with a print of the original piece.  Post prints can be obtained directly through Spiva, or through the Norman Rockwell museum website.

My image:  So, to properly illustrate the concept, I needed to do my OWN shot so you could see what we’re talking about. The image here is hopefully the first of a series that will (humorously) explore these classic scenes from old Saturday Evening Post covers, and how those scenes might be re-interpreted in our time with the introduction of invasive technology. Here it is, image #1 in the series, together with the original cover on which it is based.

Its a very simple image…. but so is the original. And the purpose wasn’t just for myself with this one,


norman rockwell 9art photography technology series, image #1- age of romance


but also to demonstrate to possible participants how easy it can be to come up with an idea and props for this little series.

Notes on the image:

Firstly, thanks so much to my ‘model’ Josh and his mom Jessica for agreeing to let me use him as the subject here. I think he was just perfect for this.

As for exploring the concept, I deliberated for a bit on whether to project a graphic behind the subject, depicting a ‘video game’ scene to replace the original adventure image. I asked Shaun from Spiva his opinion, and his thought was clever: ‘Books fire the imagination and that is what Rockwell was saying. Video games…nothing.’ And that’s exactly what I wanted to say about technology in our time. So by intentionally leaving out the graphic, I think it says more in the end.

I’d love to hear what you have to say… whether thoughts on this image, or questions or ideas about participating. You can e-mail me at markn [at] 9artphoto [dot] com, or leave a comment. And you can register right now for this project by e-mailing Shaun at spiva… sconroy [at] spivaarts [dot] org.

Can’t wait to see what you all come up with!




  1. Love the phot and the concept as a whole.

    Though I don’t agree with your about video ganes doing nothing for the imagination. Books, while you have to visualize the scenes. Are generally passive mediums. You’re just going along for the ride. While in a video game you dont have to visualize but it may require problem solving, logic, strategy, ect.

    Not to mention a noticable amount of independent games which sees the industry as an art form. It’s just looked down upon cause it’s not quite as romantic.

    • Tim, your point is a valid one for sure, but (coming from a teachers perspective) I see a lot more negatives from the video gaming industry than positives. On the other hand, I really can’t think of anything negative to say about books. Unless you’re letting your child read 50 Shades. I can tell a huge difference in the students that play video games all night and the kids that read all the time… A HUGE difference. Just my opinion.

      Anywhooo Awesome idea Mark! I think its spectacular.

    • Tim,

      Thanks for the compliment! And as with anything, we can’t take any idea/opinion (like with video games being bad) and state it TOO concretely… you’re absolutely right that there are times when it helps with problem solving, coordination, and the like. But like Tim said, I think there are more negatives from video games than positives. I can say from personal experience that an hour of video game playing leaves me more restless and with a shorter attention span/tolerance than an hour of reading a book. However, I really can ONLY say that from personal experience… it may not be the same for everyone. 🙂

      Regardless, the piece was meant to provoke thought, and you proved it did just that. I appreciate your comments.

  2. I would love to do this with my family, but I live in OKC. Can we have a photographer take our shot here? My sister shared this on Facebook…our family has always enjoyed Norman Rockwell’s art. In fact, my kids just gave individual presentations at their school on a favorite piece of art– each chose a NR piece. 🙂

    • Liz,

      that is so awesome, I’m excited to see the idea spreading so far!

      I would absolutely love for you to take part in this. However, I’m afraid you wouldn’t be eligible for the contest if it is a different photographer…. not anything to do with me being jealous (haha) but just that we want to keep the setting/photographer/’look’ the same for everyone entering the contest to keep things fair.

      That being said, please let us know if you do this anyway, and e-mail me or post your picture (or a link to your photog’s post) in the comments when we release the full batch. I think it would be really fun to see what folks are doing with this other places. 🙂

  3. The deadline for signing up by the 14th has been dropped. People can sign up through the day of the photo shoot. But, if you know in advance that you’re going to participate, please let Spiva know.

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