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A Year in Review: Highlights of 2012

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 […]

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.

Arty Pants

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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.

Expect the unexpected.

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.

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Battle master Scott Stulen and workshop boys Karl Unnasch and Andy Ducett.

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.

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Laurie Anderson manipulating the voice of a participant.

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.

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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.

November’s Free First Saturday: Experimental Expression

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By Rachel Kimpton

Guests in front of Bruce Conner’s “Night Angel”.

The warm welcome of family-friendly programming grows all the more enticing as winter creeps its way closer. November is always a busy time at the Walker, especially with the recently commenced performing arts season. This month’s Free First Saturday was no exception. Families flocked in to illuminate their Saturday, basking in the glow of visiting artist Laurie Anderson and experimenting with light, reflection, and inventing.

The morning started off by investigating and playing tricks with light via activities designed by artist Margaret Pezalla Granlund. In the Art Lab, kaleidoscopes of all shapes and sizes beckoned from tables, inviting curious hands and minds to pick them up and peer inside. Each turn of the kaleidoscope showed something different – a thousand pairs of laughing eyes, a thousand loving mothers, or a brief sneak peek at reality interspersed with a thousand tiny polygons.

If the kaleidoscopes were too dazzling, a simpler approach came in the form of two free-standing mirrors and an assortment of small objects. This seemed better suited for our youngest crowd members. With a slight tilt of one mirror, an infinite loop of images appeared, creating millions of apples or blocks or candles that faded into obscurity. The eyes of a child would narrow, and their tiny gears would start to turn. This garnered shared smiles of excitement and endearing gazes between parents. For the older kids brave enough to venture into the dark (some alone, some gingerly holding onto their taller guides), a forest of hidden secrets awaited that could only be revealed through the power of light. By placing the tiny LED against one’s temple and oscillating the finger to which it was attached, visitors were pleasantly surprised when shapes of leaves, trees, squirrels, and birds revealed themselves in the dark curtained tunnel.

Photo by Frannie Kuhs

On the way to exploring the galleries upstairs, visitors stopped at Cargill Lounge to challenge their inner inventors – some for fifteen minutes, and some for two hours. You know you’re doing something right when parents are just as into a hands-on project as their younger companions. Led by arts instructor Alexandra Waters, visitors designed their own illuminated structures using small lights and a variety of transparent materials including recycled film strips and tissue paper. The end products were altogether awe-inspiring. Highlights of the afternoon included: an angler fish, a Tony the Tiger Statue of Liberty, a decent sized model airplane with landing lights and engines, and several movie projectors (a quote from the 7-year-old artist: “Once I’m finished, it will project this film onto the whole side of the Walker!”)


Photo by Rachel Kimpton

Photo by Frannie Kuhs

Photo by Rachel Kimpton

And what better innovator to inspire creativity than multimedia artist and musician Laurie Anderson! An electronic inventor herself, Anderson generously presented an afternoon workshop for kids on top of her three evening performances in the Walker’s McGuire Theater. The promise of experiencing Anderson firsthand had parents geeking out for the entire morning. During her workshop, Anderson shared a chunk of her personal and artistic history, discussed her music and performance pieces, and showcased some of her instruments that she herself invented. Her beloved inspiration and companion for many years, Lolabelle the dog (may she rest in peace), appeared in videos as a skilled pianist. Between these discussions, Anderson performed selections from her recent work and invited young audience members to distort their voices and laughter through one of her filters. A brief question and answer session followed, giving younger audience members a chance to pick Anderson’s brain about her favorite creations and the many processes of inventing.

Guests also had the opportunity to participate in gallery activities in the Midnight Party exhibition. Guests created their own light impressions by applying concepts used by artist Bruce Conner in his piece Night Angel. Conner created this piece by positioning himself between photosensitive paper and a light source to essentially create a photographic negative. The farther Conner was from the paper, the darker the paper became. Toying around with these same ideas, visitors experimented with ultraviolet pens on UV sensitive paper. Unlike Conner’s piece, this paper did not permanently capture the effects of the light. Instead, the image remained for only a few seconds until it slowly faded away, returning the paper to its original blank state. The fleeting images dazzled visitors of all ages, making it hard to venture into the rest of the galleries.

Our other featured gallery activity asked children to share their thoughts on a specific work of art. Kids had great things to say about Robert Motherwell, Paul Sharits, Thomas Hirschhorn, and others. Yayoi Kusama’s sculpture Passing Winter was interpreted as depicting a snow storm inside a mad scientist’s lab, as well as the innards of a disco ball. One 10-year-old guest was reminded of “how lucky [she] is” by Kris Martin’s Still Alive, while an imaginative 6 year old guessed that Ed Paschke’s Painted Lady was inspired by feet that “were walking in the woods and tripped over a bucket of paint.”

Experimenting through art makes the upcoming winter season seem brighter.

All photos by Gene Pittman unless otherwise stated.

Asking Art: Global Change

Every four years, the September energy of a new school year coincides with political intensity leading up to national elections. Influenced by this moment and last night’s opening of The Living Years, we’re drumming up conversation about art and global change. Educators—we’re inviting you to share your insights into this topic by mining ArtsConnectEd. Through […]

Every four years, the September energy of a new school year coincides with political intensity leading up to national elections. Influenced by this moment and last night’s opening of The Living Years, we’re drumming up conversation about art and global change. Educators—we’re inviting you to share your insights into this topic by mining ArtsConnectEd.

Through the month of September, educators participating in Asking Art (details here) will receive one complimentary gallery pass for two adults. To participate, begin at ArtsConnectEd’s Art Finder. Ponder these questions from any angle—economic, political, environmental, societal, informational, technological, etc.:

When you think of global change, what artwork comes to mind?

How are artists making art that investigates our complex world and offers ways to reflect on globalism?

We believe that exercises such as this “asking art” prompt can help us as educators teach a generation of informed global citizens. Educators, join us in this conversational exploration.

Out in the Open: Field of Reads

Reading Room is back on Open Field this year with a twist. Instead of—and perhaps in conjunction with—celebrating  Bastille Day on July 14th you are warmly invited to read together, in solitude, aloud and/or on a chair for an hour during our Mass Read-In as part of Field of Reads. Field of Reads is an all-day […]

Reading Room is back on Open Field this year with a twist. Instead of—and perhaps in conjunction with—celebrating  Bastille Day on July 14th you are warmly invited to read together, in solitude, aloud and/or on a chair for an hour during our Mass Read-In as part of Field of Reads. Field of Reads is an all-day celebration of the creative, community-building, and social act of reading. Last year, Coffee House Press publisher and Open Field 2011 Field Office Fellow Chris Fischbach conceived of Reading Room—a nomadic, scheduled reading event space— as a framework within which one is given permission and actively encouraged to read and to think about reading.

Fischbach told MPR last year, “It’s an experiment. It also puts a frame around the act of reading and, I believe, makes you think not only about the role reading plays in your life, but in the life (more…)

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