I recently read with great interest some articles excitedly announcing the opening of the "81st Street Studio" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As the avalanche of press coverage makes clear, the 81st Street Studio is a fun and playful space for children and their adults that deals with many science-focused experiences. An exhibition space geared towards Play, Fun, and Science in (gasp!) an Art Museum?
For Heidi Holder, chair of education at the Met, much of the business of this prestigious Art Museum is Science, especially in the Research and Conservation departments. Holder wanted the new exhibition space to allow young visitors to do what they normally can’t do in the Met’s existing family programs: drop in unscheduled, and touch what they see.
Of course, all this sounds very much like the sort of thing that both Children's Museums and Science Centers have been doing successfully for many years with much lower budgets and much less breathless press coverage. (Note to the New York Times -- there are other types of museums in addition to Art Museums!)
One of the articles also mentioned that Cas Holman, an artist well-known for creating playful toys and spaces, will be bringing new play-focused exhibition experiences to the Queens Museum in 2024 (Check out this previous ExhibiTricks post about Holman's work on the "Wobbly World" exhibition at the Liberty Science Center.)
It may be that all this news of "play" and "touching" in Art Museum spaces will have some purists clutching their pearls and decrying the "dumbing down" of the museum-going experience.
Nevertheless, it seems like Art Museums are catching on to the value of creating some playful, active spaces for children and their adult caregivers (and other young-at-heart visitors!) as an additional way to enjoy the artful content inside -- without preventing curmudgeons their opportunities to gaze pensively at 19th-century oil paintings inside the hushed galleries elsewhere.
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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!
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