The hottest new movement in science education has come to the New York Hall of Science. Bolstering its reputation as one of the most hands-on museums in the five boroughs, NYSCI has revamped and rebuilt its lower level to create “Design Lab.”
All photos by Alice Perry
This fresh permanent exhibit engages kids with five distinct “pods” or large activity areas that all have the earmarks of the Maker Movement, a fast-growing education trend that emphasizes using everyday materials to explore, create, and come up with powerful new ideas all on your own. This DIY movement puts kids firmly in the driver’s seat; NYSCI just provides the tools and guidance.
Kids love to touch and build, and that’s why Design Lab succeeds. Here are the five pods, which will have changing activities throughout the year:
1. Sandbox: sorry, no sand, instead, kids are challenged to build a large structure like one using dowels and rubber bands;
3. Studio: families construct tabletop structures, illuminated and animated by LEDs, motors, and circuits;
4. Treehouse: kids explore gravity, shape, and air resistance by dropping their creations from the elevated walkway in the Design Lab. (You know this will be your kids’ favorite); and
5. Maker Space, which opened in 2012: kids learn how to use tools to convert design ideas into prototypes.
Design Lab is all about the process rather than the outcome. It’s about kids getting inspired by their own creativity and finding their own way.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is the darling of the international art world, and your darlings will love his artwork too. Much of the artist’s exhibit, “According to What?,” which runs until Aug. 10 at the Brooklyn Museum, is conceptual, but it’s easily accessible and speaks to kids as well. The show fills two floors of the museum and part of the lobby area, but we’ll narrow it down and give you the highlights of what your kids will dig.
All photos by Alice Perry
On the first floor, you might walk right past those six large rust-colored cubes. But put the brakes on the stroller and take a closer look. Entitled S.A.C.R.E.D., these iron boxes are dioramas that document Ai’s imprisonment by Chinese authorities. Yes, it’s a little bleak-sounding, but the kids will love looking through the peek-a-boo windows and spying on these sculptural recreations of the artist as he eats and sleeps.
Be sure also to check out Stacked, which is also located on the first floor near the brick arcade that separates the lobby from the Rubin Pavilion. This site-specific installation features 700 stainless steel bicycles interlocked together creating a monumental wall of wheels, spokes, and frames.
On the fifth floor, kids will gravitate to Moon Chest, which are seven huge chests evenly spaced across half a gallery. Each chest has four circular openings. When viewed from one end, the openings align in such a way to suggest the moon phases. Of course, kids will ignore contemplating heavenly bodies and prefer to stand at one end, look through the holes, and yell, “Can you see me, Mommy?”
Head down the gallery and check out Ai’s most well-known work, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn. What kid wouldn’t love the sheer anarchy of the photos of Ai blithely smashing an ancient artifact? In the foreground, kids can stroll around actual Han Dynasty vases that Ai has defaced by dipping them in bright industrial paint or stenciling a “Coca-Cola” logo (although “Capri-Sun” or “Gatorade” would be more apropos for today’s kids) across its surface.
On the fourth floor, stop by the far end gallery to see Snake Ceiling. Although the artwork’s symbolism will make your heart heavy (it’s made of hundreds of backpacks to represent students who perished in the horrendous 2008 Sichuan earthquake), kids will stick get a kick out of seeing the snake suspended from the ceiling. Directly under Snake Ceiling are 3,000 orange and gray porcelain crabs. This installation is so steeped in Chinese symbolism and play-on words that some adults may barely “get it,” but kids will love seeing these roped-off crustaceans and wonder, “Are they real?”
Two summer exhibits at the Jewish Museum are surefire kid-pleasers. One involves a giant, and the other lots of big, bold, and sometimes bad words.
All Photos by Alice Perry
“Diane Arbus’s Jewish Giant” is a small exhibit that’s the perfect size for your youngest gallery-goers. Delving into the story behind Arbus’s famous photo of Eddie Carmel, once billed as “the world’s tallest man,” the exhibit showcases the “giant’s” personal belongings, like his size 35 shoes and huge rings. At the center of the exhibit is Arbus’s photo of Carmel towering over his almost bewildered-looking parents in their cramped living room. The show, which ends Aug. 3, also focuses on the phenomena of freaks, spectacles, and folk heroes, and includes a Hulk memorabilia section for all the superhero fans in your family.
While the museum does provide a family guide for the exhibit “Mel Bochner: Strong Language,” it isn’t promoting the show as ideal family fare. Use your own judgment on what you want to expose to your children. Yes, there are R-rated words. But there are also many fun paintings that kids will love such as Small Fart (another four-lettered F word). The colors are bold and exciting, and kids can relate to the works’ finger-painting quality. Best of all, the artist’s love of language is contagious.
For these 70 paintings and drawings, Bochner used Roget’s Thesaurus as his main inspiration. Written in block letters, the words run along lines on the painting just like an exercise in a composition book. In each painting, a progression of tame and playful words begins and then builds into a fiery and unbridled crescendo. The show runs until Sept. 21.
To turn kids onto art, you need them to do it rather than just to look at it. And that’s where the museum’s drop-in Monday workshops come in. Starting in July, the museum will host two sessions: Art Adventure Monday for kids age 4 to 7 and Art in July for kids age 4 and up. Both use the exhibits as a jumping-off point for creativity. In one session, kids will explore language and the power of words in Bochner’s vibrant paintings, while in another, they’ll learn how a person’s clothing, facial expression, and pose tell a story as they do in Arbus’s photos.
The Children’s Museum of the Arts takes kids’ art very seriously – even more than you do. While you tape your kids’ doodles on the fridge, CMA goes one giant step further and curates whole exhibits where the oldest artist may be 12 years old.
At CMA’s latest show, “Focus: Artist as Observer,” which opened last week and runs until Sept. 7, young artists from around the city take center stage. Culling artwork from its permanent collection and traveling pop-up programs, the museum puts the spotlight on kids’ work that explores the big questions like “who am I” and “how does my environment shape me.”
Photo by Alice Perry
Although the show includes three photography sections from established “grown-up” artists, the most wow moments come from the kids’ paintings. In My Neighborhood Gang, an 11-year-old depicts her friends sitting on a bench that captures a moment of kinship and boredom. With its muted colors and rubbed out faces, this prepubescent painter gives Modigliani a run for his money.
Photo by Alice Perry
Or check out the painting of the cityscape by another young’un simply entitled Different. The buildings are crammed and colorful, but it’s the sky that got us to look twice. With its blues, greens, and whites, this pip-squeak painter was able to harness a vision of a summer sky before the magic hour of twilight.
After you and the kids get inspired by these works, stick around and attend one of CMA’s daily workshops, which explore the same themes as the art exhibit in a super fun way. What kid wouldn’t want to try out the “DIY Google Eye” workshop? Kids get a chance to create their own personalized googley eye mask. Or check out the “Paper Room View” session, where kids analyze their most personal environment — their bedroom. Kids will draw their rooms on origami paper and then create an origami balloon. Using the opening like a peep hole, kids will welcome viewers into their bedrooms.
Photo courtesy of the CMA
CMA also offers daily summer camps. For your youngest kids, Wee Arts introduces art-making to children as young as 10 months, encourages self-expression, and gives them a head start in preschool. Wee Arts also offers drop-in sessions. For kids age 6 and older, the Summer Art Colony is a full-day immersion in all things art, from drawing and sculpture to filmmaking and theater. Summer Art Colony offers over 50 camps at two locations, at CMA and on Governors Island.
How do you like your public art served? How about with a side order of a world-class burger along with a creamy milkshake? That’s exactly what you can experience this week at Madison Square Park. Coinciding with the installation of Rachel Feinstein’s three new public artworks in the park, Shake Shack is hosting a weeklong 10-year anniversary celebration at its original stand in Madison Square Park.
Photo by Alice Perry
Located in different areas around the park, Feinstein’s Folly comprises three fanciful structures: a 26-foot-high house perched on a towering cliff, a Rococo-style hut, and a moored ship. Although they look like delicate origami creations, the sculptures are made from solid powder-coated aluminum with painted outlines.
The name Folly comes from “Victorian folly,” a building built primarily for decoration. And it seems that Feinstein wants to play with that tension: an object that looks functional but really isn’t. She told RedRover that she made the sculptures strong enough to withstand kids’ rough and tumble play. “I want these to be interactive,” she said. “All the sharp edges have been sanded.” However, the parks department is not officially allowing children to play on them. So there they are–to be looked at and to conjure up kids’ daydreams—at least until Sept. 7 when the show ends.
Photo courtesy of Shake Shack
Even if the kids can’t climb on the public art, they can certainly get their hands on a big juicy burger designed by such chef-artistes like Daniel Boulud, David Chang, Andrew Zimmern, Daniel Humm, and April Bloomfield. As part of “Decade of the Shack,” everyone’s favorite burger joint has enlisted these chefs to create five special edition burgers that will be exclusively available at the Madison Square Park Shack from June 9 to 13. Extra feel-good bonus: Shake Shack will donate $1 for each burger sold to the Madison Square Park Conservancy and NYC Parks.
On Thursday, June 12—Shake Shack’s actual birthday—Madison Square Park will host the Decade of the Shack fest. Starting at 1 p.m., you and the kids can groove to live music throughout the day. If the super-indulgent burgers are too overwhelming for the kids, Shake Shack will have a special hot dog cart serving complimentary “pay what you’d like” Shack-cago Dogs as a tribute to the Shack’s early days. Afterwards, play a few games on the concrete ping pong table that will be set up near the Shack (although you’ll probably spend more time crawling around looking for your kids’ whacked ping pong balls).
Photo by Alice Perry
Even without the mammoth public art and yummy over-the-top burgers, Madison Square Park always offers lots of kid fun like its splash park, weekly summer kid concerts, Reading Rangers program, and Art in the Park classes. To find more fun at Madison Square Park or elsewhere around the city, download our FREE app for iPhone/iPad or Android.
It has been called the biggest block party of the year. On June 10 from 6 to 9 p.m., more than 20 blocks will be closed off to traffic and thousands of art lovers will line up to devour masterpieces at top museums for the annual 36th Museum Mile Festival.
Photo by Josef Pinlac
Some of RedRover’s favorite museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the Jewish Museum and the Guggenheim Museum will swing open their doors for free. Not only will your kids see great art, but they’ll also get a chance to literally dance – and draw – in the streets. Live musical acts, actors, clowns, and arts stations will be dotted along the closed Fifth Ave. corridor from 82nd to 105th Sts.
Photo by Alice Perry
Start your trip at 5:45 p.m. at the Museum of the City of New York where city dignities will officially kick off the festival. While the Little Orchestra, whose mission is to turn kids onto the classics, plays on the museum’s terrace, check out the museum’s exhibit City as Canvas. Documenting a time when graffiti was both a creative outlet for young artists and the bane of city officials’ existence, the show’s cartoon figures and in-your-face colors will grab the attention of even the most I-hate-museums type of kid. After you get inspired by Keith Haring and Lee Quiñones, take it to the streets and draw your own graffiti with sidewalk chalk in front of the museum.
Head down toward 93rd St. and catch a goofy performance by Sammie & Tudie Imagination Playhouse. At the Jewish Museum at 92nd St., kids will dig “Masterpieces & Curiosities: Diane Arbus’s Jewish Giant,” which showcases Arbus’s famous photographs of the nine-foot-tall Eddie Carmel along with the “giant’s” personal effects like his size 35 shoes. The museum’s Mel Bochner exhibit is the jumping-off point for the outdoor art activity where kids can use letter stamps and color sticks to create their own favorite words.
Photo by Duncan Bell, courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum
At the Guggenheim Museum, kids can check out other local kid artists at the A Year With Children exhibit, which highlights artwork by NYC elementary schoolchildren who participated in the museum’s Learning Through Art program. In front of the museum, groove to the salsa tunes of Avenida B and grab a bucket of sidewalk chalk and help your kids to create your own family artwork.
While the lines for the museums are notoriously long, there is so much else to do that you may not need to go inside to keep the kids entertained. As you wander down Fifth Ave., you’ll pass enough clowns, singers, magicians and facepainting artists to keep your kids satisfied – at least until the next big summer festival.
Art-hopping in Long Island City just got a whole lot easier, thanks to the new summer Long Island City Art Bus. The free – yes, free – shuttle makes stops at all the must-see cultural gems of Queens: MoMA P.S. 1, Sculpture Center, The Noguchi Museum, and Socrates Sculpture Park.
Photos by Alice Perry
Operating on Saturdays and Sundays, the LIC Art Bus runs from 12 to 6 p.m. and makes a continual loop among the four cultural institutions. The 25-seat shuttle is clean and air-conditioned, and the entire trip from start to finish takes about 25 minutes with 5 to 10 minutes between stops. The bus leaves each stop about every 45 minutes, which gives you time to sample the Long Island City art scene.
So what’s going on in Long Island City that’s so special? Socrates Sculpture Park is one of the best-kept secrets this side of the East River. This artist enclave is a little bit hippy-dippy Berkeley and a little bit hipper-than-thou Chelsea topped with a ton of cool things that the whole family will enjoy.
The park specializes in gigantic outdoor sculptures that kids love. Currently on view is Paweł Althamer’s (who just had an excellent show at the New Museum) Queen Mother of Reality, a colossal Buddha-like figure who reclines in the shade along the East River. Stretching 50 feet long, the sculpture is made from recycled and found materials like fedora hats and airplane parts. Best part? Kids can enter the sculpture around the tummy area and explore inside.
Over at MoMA P.S. 1, the current exhibits aren’t exactly targeted toward children, but there are a few cool things for the kids to check out. Kids will immediately dig the fact the museum is an old schoolhouse that still feels and looks like a school.
On the second floor, steer the kids to a few sections of Christoph Schlingensief’s wild traveling circus of a show. Although the exhibit contains mature material, it won’t hurt kids to take a ride on Stairlift to Heaven, Schlingensief’s playful commentary on getting rid of boundaries between art and daily life. Visitors sit in a hydraulic chair, which gently ascends along the wall. At the top, you can pull back a small curtain on a box and watch a movie privately. As you follow your future geriatric journey, a spotlight shines on your trip. Who doesn’t like having an all-eyes-on-me experience?
The Noguchi Museum’s Zen vibe is not only a serene respite for parents, but the museum also offers kid-pleaser family workshops. On a monthly basis, the museum hosts a drop-in art workshop – no registration required. In addition, future Rodins can create masterpieces at Art for Tots and Art for Families every Saturday and Sunday.
So what you waiting for? Get on the bus!
You know the drill when you take your kids to a museum: “no touching” and “use your inside voice.” But at Kara Walker’s new sculpture exhibition in the defunct Domino Sugar factory in Brooklyn, you’ll need to add one more rule: “No licking.”
Photos by Alice Perry
The centerpiece of Walker’s show, “A Subtlety,” is a monumental Aunt Jemima-meets-Egyptian sphinx sculpture covered in white, granulated sugar. Measuring 35 feet tall and 75 feet long, Sugar Baby dominates the 30,000-square-foot, gymnasium-like space and will wow you and the kids.
Standing before the mammoth Sugar Baby, even the youngest kids will feel that they’re in the presence of something grand and legendary and even bizarre. Walk around the sculpture (which is a bit of a hike considering its size) and check out the textured streams of sugar on the sculpture’s sides and the carpet of white sugar that encircles Sugar Baby.
Presented by Creative Time, Walker’s installation also includes 15 smaller sculptures of young boys carrying baskets and leading up to Sugar Baby. Although about five feet high, these richly brown sculptures seem diminutive compared to the Queen Bee. Kids can get up close to these boys and see powdered sugar at their feet and melting molasses on their backs, which looks like sweat from their labors. On one sculpture, powdered brown sugar is visible where his eyes should be. With others, if you stand in the right spot, the natural light illuminates the sculpture, turning the brown sugar to a deep ochre color.
Throughout the whole factory, you can feel invisible sugar crunching under your feet. If you look up toward the ceiling, you can see burned molasses still on the walls from the factory’s working years. And the smell, yes, you can still smell a chemical sweetness in the air.
The installation plays on so many archetypes and stereotypes that you may get tongue-tied when your kids ask the invariable question, “Why?” If you don’t have the answers, just stick to the rules: No touching, use your inside voice, and no licking.
A few end notes:
1) Strollers are allowed. Yea!
2) Because the factory is under construction, there is no running water, and only Port-a-Potties are available.
3) Creative Time recommends using public transportation because parking in the area can sometimes be difficult. Take the L to Bedford Ave. or the J, M, Z to Marcy Ave. It is about a 15-minute walk from both stations to the factory.
4) If you have a problem with exposing your kids to a supersized naked female form, you may want to skip this one.
Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” continues at Domino Sugar factory (Kent Ave. & South 2nd St., Williamsburg) until July 6: Fri., 4-8 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 12-6 p.m. Free.
Imagine that you’re an 8-year-old kid and when your friends ask, “What did you do over the weekend?” you respond oh-so nonchalantly, “I went to my art opening at the Guggenheim.” Well, that’s exactly what happened last week for a select group of New York City public schoolchildren.
The Guggenheim Museum’s new exhibit “A Year with Children 2014” showcases the art by kids who participated in Learning Through Art (LTA), a museum program that sends teaching artists into the public elementary schools where they collaborate with teachers to design projects that explore ideas related to the school curriculum.
Over a six-month period, the instructors met with the kids who range in age from 7 to 12 at their schools and got to work. All of the art, which includes assemblages, collages, paintings, and sculptures, is inspired by the Guggenheim collection (no doodles of hearts or smiley faces here). These future Richard Princes and Cindy Shermans tackled the big ideas in art, such as questioning identity, revisiting the past, and making bold statements about today.
Students at P.S. 86 in the Bronx explored the idea of culture and how it develops in their community. Each kid was asked to take a photograph of something they see every day in their neighborhood and then to create a sculpture of it. Now on display are papier mâché replicas of those everyday objects like a super-sized pencil and a crushed soda can (move over, Claes Oldenburg).
At P.S. 144 in Forest Hills, the kids were challenged to create an artwork that makes the invisible seem visible. So how do you visualize something invisible like energy? Just ask third grader Gopy Manby. “I did kinetic energy,” he excitedly explained at the exhibit’s opening. “Since I play soccer, I wanted to make a sculpture about soccer. I really liked working with the clay and wires.”
While at P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights, the students delved into the question of collaboration and community. Third grader Cheythan Winter described in detail the group artwork. “This is a mural, and everybody painted their own personal symbol in the background. My symbol means strong and peaceful,” he said. Then the kid artists posed for a photo in front of the mural using gestures to illustrate an ideal. “Ours is strong and creative.” Could this group of kids be the next big art movement like the Irascibles or Fluxus? Stay tuned!
A Year With Children 2014 is on view now to June 18 at the Guggenheim Museum.
[Top two photos by Alice Perry, bottom photo by Scott Rudd, courtesy of Guggenheim Museum.]
Ah, the elusive kid friendly restaurant. Though life would be much easier if all eateries had a big sign on their door that made it clear, most of the time we can only find how accommodating they are to children that out through trial and error. There are, however, a few ways to tell before you enter whether or not a venue will be appropriate.
They’re certainly not foolproof, but these tactics will at least help you eliminate the restaurants that are not welcoming, and that kids will not enjoy. And even if you already know these tricks, hopefully they’ll at least inspire you to branch out from your standard shortlist of dinner spots and take the family somewhere new.
Menu: Okay, this one’s pretty obvious. Though food is by no means the only kid-friendliness indicator, it’s easy to cross a restaurant off your list if there’s nothing your fussiest eater will enjoy. Plus, if the menu features a “Kids’ Menu” section, you know you’re golden.
Seating: Call a restaurant ahead of time. If you simply say “Are you kid friendly?” they may not know how to answer. But if you ask if there are highchairs or booster seats, their yes or know response will give you a clearer idea.
The Crowd: For parents with small children, the spacing of the restaurant matters a lot. It can be hard to tell a restaurant’s spacing from pictures online, but if a restaurant is lauded as “cozy,” or if it looks super crowded, you can guess there won’t be much room for strollers.
Word of Mouth: At the end of the day, word of mouth is the best way to find kid friendly restaurants. And these days, you don’t have to worry if you don’t have any friends or relatives with kids to help you discover new dining experiences your children can enjoy. After all, you can always look up recommendations Google or Yelp, or ask your go-to Facebook group.
So this weekend, expand your culinary horizons. Get out and enjoy some of the amazing things going on in your city on RedRover, and then end your best day ever with a new kid friendly restaurant.
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