New Children's Museum


Play to Create
By Leyna Roget

“What is a Happening? A game, an adventure, a number of activities engaged in by participants for the sake of playing.”_–Allan Kaprow

Finger painting and popsicle stick crafting is faint on the radar in this age of videogame button mashing, so it’s up to places like the New Children’s Museum to bring back the value of arts and crafts. This hands-on family museum is filled with interactive contemporary art installations where children and adults can put their imagination to play. A museum that screams anything but “don’t touch”, everybody is encouraged to combine art into their lives, develop critical thinking around creative expression, and formulate a sustainable foundation for interacting with the world.

Contemporary artist, Allan Kaprow and the works in his collection Happenings, are the inspiration for the New Children’s Museum exhibit Childsplay, which captures the dynamic of children participating directly with the art. Kaprow saw the need to remove disjointed boundaries in observing art, and instead created a shared encounter between the art piece and observer through his interactive presentations. Gustavo Artigas’ Constructing (Backwards) is a digital video recording of children piecing together a carpet blueprint of the museum’s layout - played in reverse. The children in the museum are able to view the deconstruction on the video, a kind of reflection on the communications of collective childsplay, and also take part in reconstructing the floor plan themselves.

An integral element to creative expression is getting the opportunity to engage the mind and put imagination into practice. At the New Children’s Museum education meets playtime with the array of programs offered by the museum’s Art Education Program. This is in the form of weekly classes for families, in house school programs, summer camps, and in-depth art classes. During the preschool and kindergarten years, participation in art has been shown to enhance critical brain development in verbal and analytical skills. The School-in-Residence education program is a three-week on-site creative arts curriculum to enhance creativity. It’s taught in classrooms available within the museum space. The program helps children envision themselves as artists, and encourage a number of critical skills for self-expression beyond the realm of fine arts.

Studio workshops give attention to creative process and experience, as well as educating children on using sustainable materials. As a “green” facility, efforts have been made to reduce the amount of energy consumed through state of the art cooling and lighting systems. Conserving materials is also at the heart of repurposing found items and recycled goods into art projects. Scratch paper, donated supplies, carpet remnants, left over cardboard, are ways the museum is keeping their consumption to a minimum. Young children may not be conscious of the benefits of using recycled materials, but the hope is that the example of conserving supplies will be absorbed by young minds entering the creative space.

Some of the children arriving at the New Children’s Museum have never had the chance to sit down and let their creative thoughts simmer and boil over. An added appeal is the family togetherness a museum of this nature has, and one without crusty, sad headsets is all the more fun. The only vacuum sounds in this museum will be those coming from the harmonicas attached to them, announcing museum activity from their motion censor detectors.