Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Joy of Discovery at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln

So often art, especially contemporary art is too complex for children. I know that I also hesitate to take my toddlers to art museums because I spend so much of the time nagging them to refrain from touching the art. (E.g. on last year's trip to the ICA that my son, who was 3 at the time, jumped and moved some parts of a paper clip sculpture!
This seems so ironic as art should create curiosity in children, inviting them to join in. And that is what the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln has accomplished so beautifully, particularly in the sculpture park. Instead of being told not to touch, you are allowed to get involved with the sculptures-to touch them, feel them and, in the case of a huge xylophone, play it! By allowing children to literally explore the sculptures, the DeCordova brings children to the joys of art. And you can stay on the grounds and picnic (try getting a lunch from all the wonderful produce at Verrill Farm, nearby).
The Museum goes further. When kids get to the park, they have kits that you can borrow to do even more interactive activities. Now I love art.And I am trying to teach myself to do pastels and watercolor. But really my creativity these days is limited to Legoes, and stickers.
So I was thrilled to open the container (pictured at the top of this post) and to discover so many objects that kids can use to play and think more deeply about the sculptures.
I enjoy the sculpture park in a completely different way when I come without the children. It is integrated with nature, so that you can see Flint Pond, absorb the shade of tall trees, and watch a fountain in the hill. It is a great place to write, or, yes, to try to create a picture. There are also quirky sculptures that can bring a smile to the most analytical of adults.
Inside the museum could be a bit trickier with the youngest of children, as you can't "touch" most of the art, but again the DeCordova allows many other options. First, in an ongoing exhibition space is currently a glorious exhibit by artist Nadya Volicer.
Created entirely by recycled materials, the room has a beautiful tree, lovely light and books scattered throughout. As you enter, you can take a brochure that offers questions to push your children's thinking, as well as activities to do at home.
On another level of the museum is the Process Gallery. Here kids (and adults) can touch materials from art. In this case it features exhibiting artist Chakaia Booker who transforms used tires into mind-bending pieces of art.
The Museum has also created another kit for kids to use throughout the museum. Entitled, "Family Activity Kits," they include all sorts of questions and activities to help kids to get more engaged with the museum.

But, yes, there is more. I love their gift store for quirky presents and I look forward to the day that my kids can have the chance to attend their many art classes. And teachers (like those at my workplace) can take their students, too.

There are number of special ways to visit. Friday nights will be free throughout July and there will be live performances each week. There are Family programs on a regular basis, such as storytelling and family friendly tours. On Saturday August 7th, will be a special event: Yoga in the Park (for children and adults!) On Sunday, September 19th is a Family Sculpture Fest. If you have a Bank of America card, the first weekend of each month is also free. (And, most importantly, kids under 5 are always free!)

Finally, full disclosure here, my sister-in-law is one of the curators at the museum, though I have been coming here for years. If you still don't believe how great this place is, you can also check out this post by Dadventures in Beantown about his time at the park with his sons.

For a more extensive list of activities with children at the DeCordova, click here.

The DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln, 781-259-8355

1 comment:

  1. What a perfect day trip! My children would love that giant xylophone! I wish that more art museums would incorporate children's activities into their programming. I find modern art, for some reason, especially accessible to little ones. Thanks for posting about this. It's going on my list of things to do this summer.