By Rachel Kimpton.
From the doors of the Walker Art Center to happenings around the city, state, country, and world at large, 2012 was indeed a whirlwind of a year. After putting our heads together, we present to you this compilation of outstanding family programs to shine as a beacon of inspiration for the year to come.
Last winter, visitors created “cool” paintings and sculptures using colored ice as a medium, and designed their very own arctic creatures. Young guests transformed the windows overlooking Hennepin Avenue in the General Mills Hennepin Lounge with giant, colorful window clings. January featured the film Lost and Found, a heart-warming story based on the book by Oliver Jeffers. Spring activities largely incorporated the Lifelike exhibition and similar themes. Visitors toyed with scale by creating tiny models of their favorite places, preparing a paper feast large enough for giants, and manipulating the size of different body parts using a photo booth.
Steve Sanders of Snapdragon Seeds Music joined us in May and June. He improvised songs based on visitor observations of the Walker Art Center galleries and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Songs included a story about a cyclops (based on our old Murakami wallpaper), the journey of a young man from New York to Minnesota, and why John Waters is silly. You can enjoy a large batch of Steve’s Arty Pants songs on his website. Summer hosted two very fun hands-on projects. Kids created their own clay versions of freshwater creatures and collaborated to make paper garden with all the necessary inhabitants (including a garden gnome). During November and December, local dancer Timmy Wagner led several workshops teaching Merce Cunningham’s ideas behind artful movement and choreography.
One of our favorite things about Arty Pants is when visitors get excited and projects take unexpected turns.
Free First Saturday
February was all about snow. We planned to trick out sleds and take them for a spin down the hill, but Minnesota threw us a curveball last winter. No snow? No problem! “Snow(less) Saturday” was a day of making cardboard snowmen with artists Andy Ducett and Scott Stulen, learning about bees with Terry McDaniel of the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers Association, and crafting valentines for residents at Twin Cities nursing homes with local artist Amanda Lovelee. Families had a chance to experience the imaginative process of film within the walls of the Walker Art Center in March. This day was very exciting, as the Walker hosted the regional premier of the award-winning animated Japanese film Oblivion Island.
April was a day of exploring memories, ancient traditions, and feelings of youth. Minnesotan playwright and performer Kevin Kling and author/illustrator Chris Monroe paid us a visit to narrate their collaborative work, Big Little Brother, a children’s book about sibling rivalry turned brotherly love. Families had the opportunity to enjoy Oscar-winning short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and to create wool felt alongside artists from the Textile Center.
In August, the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden was transformed into a giant LARPing (live action roleplaying) arena. The responsibility of freeing both the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden from a dangerous curse was placed in the hands of ordinary citizens. Participants encountered shopkeepers, trolls, shaman, fortunetellers, sirens, merchants, and others while completing various quests in order to lift the curse. September celebrated the power of reading, storytelling, and community. Local author and illustrator Nancy Carlson led the activity Get Up & Read, allowing characters from her books to encourage guests to be active and move their bodies as they made their way through the Garden.
As the year began to wind down, November wound things back up again by coaxing out one’s inner inventor through experimental expression. Artist Margaret Pezalla Granlund transformed the Art Lab into a luminous forest where guests investigated the tricks of light, mirrors, and reflection. Electronic music pioneer Laurie Anderson held an afternoon workshop showcasing her invented instruments, projects, and music.
Family Exhibition of the Year: Lifelike
Without a doubt, the Lifelike exhibition wins family favorite – hands down. Lifelike was on view for most of spring, opening in late February and ending in late May (you can read more about the exhibition here and here). This exhibition showcased how artists replicate everyday objects, challenging visitors to think about the art of design, and to recognize that “ordinary” does not necessarily imply “simple.” For children, this was a great introduction to exploring art outside of textbook examples, and to get a sense for what artists are doing and have done. The irony of altered scales or mediums, such as an oversized milk carton or a sleeping bag cast in bronze, was enjoyed by all and served as the perfect spark for dialogue.
The gallery activities were very successful with this exhibition. Over 1000 scavenger hunt sheets made it into hands of visitors at family programs! Art Think, one of our gallery activities, asks children to describe their thoughts on a specific work of art that caught their attention. During Lifelike, kids tended to gravitate towards pieces from this exhibition and had a lot of interesting things to say.
As the Walker Art Center is always changing and evolving, we hope that 2012 will serve as an excellent role model for the upcoming programs in 2013.