Saturday, 10 October 2009

Choices of venue

Here are some reasons for why we're going to the places we're going...

Getty Family Room, Getty Museum (and the Getty Villa), Los Angeles, California - Rebecca Edwards

In its current form, the Family Room primarily makes connections with collections although developments planned for 2010 intend to enable more art-making activities and will draw on the experience of the Family Art Lab programme. Key questions currently being addressed by staff at the Getty include how to make interactive spaces intuitive (i.e. no text), how to develop open-ended, collaborative and multi-levelled activities, and how the aesthetic of the environment impacts on learning.

Issues around text, aesthetics and intergenerational experience are central to our own thinking, as is the relationship between dedicated gallery spaces and learning programmes. Rebecca Edwards has done a great deal of research on the topic, and has spoken and written widely about it.

LACMALab and Boone Children’s Gallery, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), California – Karen Satzman, Manager: Art Classes and Family Programmes

LACMALab, the research and development unit of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, commissions artists to create original artworks as interactives. Works are not exclusively aimed at children, rather they have a goal of public engagement for all ages. Previous artists have included Allan Kaprow, Jennifer Steinkamp, Eleanor Antin, Jim Isermann, Daniel Martinez. LACMALab have also worked with collections material and within universities and art schools to create installations.

The key aspect of this visit would be to find out about commissioning original artworks in a space not just for children, but for all visitors’ engagement. It may also be possible to meet with some of the commissioned artists to hear their perspectives.

New Children’s Museum, San Diego, California – Lauren Popp, Education Programmes Coordinator

This is a brand new museum that opened in May 2008, as yet with little external research, and has been recommended by Rebecca Edwards at the Getty as somewhere with a new perspective that is ‘phenomenal’. Again, original artwork is specifically commissioned for the space, but here it is primarily for children, rather than for all visitors. From the museum’s website:

The New Children’s Museum opened just in time to meet an urgent community need, providing early exposure to the visual arts at a time when arts curriculum is increasingly cut from schools. And with a focus on sustainability, The New Children’s Museum provides an environment that encourages active minds, healthy bodies and unstructured play.

“Our goal is to inspire children to think, play and create by providing accessible and meaningful art experiences,” stated Rachel Teagle PhD, Executive Director of the Museum. “We are a unique hybrid of a children’s museum and an art museum.”

“The New Children’s Museum exhibits contemporary works of art for children and families,” added Dr. Laurie Mitchell, President of the Museum’s Board of Directors. “We approach contemporary art with a playful spirit, and take children’s need for play seriously.”

The Museum experience features innovative, provocative artworks that kids can touch, climb, or move (exhibitions); messy, hands-on art making opportunities (studios); and a variety of arts-based classes and camps (Arts Education Center). Rounded out with an organic cafe, unique retail shop, abundant seating, quiet space for parents and infants, and an outdoor park, the Museum provides a comfortable and engaging environment for the entire family to enjoy together.

Arizona Museum for Youth, Mesa, Arizona – Laura Matzer, Curator of Education

Founded in 1980 as the first US children’s museum with a focus on art, AMY has been recommended by Rebecca Edwards as well as colleagues at Tate Modern as somewhere in which the ambience and environment itself creates an interesting family learning dynamic. Its intention is to integrate looking-at-art activities with making-art activities and it is also one of the only museums in this research visit that makes explicit learning about art processes. Laura Matzer completed her MA thesis on interactivity in several US museums (Speed, New Orleans Museum of Art, DeYoung and Phoenix Art Museum), so it will be interesting to hear about this research.

PHX Kids Gallery, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona – Kathryn Blake, Curator for Education

Kathryn Blake presented an interesting paper at the Getty Symposium on ‘Museum Behaviours’. The focus here would be to explore the pros and cons that arise with having separate identified spaces for children and to look at how the Kids Gallery equips family visitors to visit other museum spaces in a confident way. Like the Clore Interactive Gallery, this is a space that uses original artworks from the collection, and we are interested to explore further the balance between innovative interpretation and conservation restrictions. This children’s gallery also incorporates its own website and we are keen to explore the potential of digital technologies, both specialist and everyday.

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