It’s July; the kids are bouncing off the walls, and there's still more than a month until school starts. You're beginning to think there aren't possibly enough activities in the world to keep your children entertained all summer long, when a can't-miss art installation opens in Downtown LA that's fun for the whole family.
Animal Soul, which is on display July 14-22, is composed of giant balloon creatures located at two DTLA venues: FIGat7th and the Wells Fargo Center. And if you're looking for an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about art with your kids, artist Jason Hackenwerth believes his expansive exhibit fits the bill.
I caught up with Jason at the FIGat7th location, home to Nagi and Cronus, two of the exhibit’s sculptures. “I hope parents will try to see it from their kids’ perspectives, to listen to what they say,” he said.
Animal Soul is the logical next step in his series of impressive inflatable sculptures that form a virtual menagerie of intricate, latex balloon animals—many of them twice as tall as a grown man or larger. The transitory nature of the materials used in earlier works made it impossible to create an enduring outdoor installation, so Jason now substitutes nylon and vinyl for the latex.
Each of the three creatures at the exhibit is attached to an inflation system that brings it to life. The resulting effect is an imposing, almost forbidding array of animal sentinels standing guard over FIGat7th and the Wells Fargo Center, where the third sculpture, Helio, towers over visitors.
Each animal is a unique creation, born from Jason's vivid imagination. They’re like nothing you’ve ever seen, and yet, at the same time, they’re natural and evocative of beings we’ve known for a lifetime. With each sculpture, it’s as though the animal’s name is always on the tip of your tongue. That’s what makes this installation so great for kids. It gives them a structure upon which they can let their imaginations run wild. After dark, the animals light up, making them all the more inviting and eerie.
Covered parking is available at the FIGat7th location–it’s a mall, after all–and, for Downtown LA, it’s reasonable, as long as you get validated at one of the mall’s businesses while you’re there. Three hours for four bucks! Can’t beat that.
If you don’t want to park twice, plan on getting a serious walk, and bring a stroller for the little one. It’s almost a mile between the locations, with some uphill terrain going from FIGat7th to Wells Fargo. As you’d likely imagine in DTLA, some of the uphill terrain comes with convenient escalators.
Seeing the whole installation probably won’t take all day, but there are plenty of nearby events and attractions to round out your Downtown LA adventure, including a Kids Club event at FIGat7th on July 22nd from 2pm to 4pm, where little crafters can make their own water-resistant beach wallets.
Don’t miss Animal Soul! The family will have a great time, and you can get the kids started right on the whole art appreciation thing. They’ll thank you in the long run.
Photos by author