5 Must-See Interactive Art Exhibits in NYC That Close Soon

If the purpose of art is to make us think about and see the world from a different perspective, taking your kids to see creative works is a double whammy. Kids always seem to see the world with fresh eyes, so having an art-venture is a super fun way to get a new POV as a family.

The city is bursting with FREE outdoor art over the summer, as well as several new exhibits just for kids. But we recently stumbled upon some extra fun, interactive art happenings that although not necessarily designed for kids, are actually perfect for them. Most of these close as summer winds down and fall blows in, so read on to get the scoop now.


Hansel & Gretel describes a world of surveillance and shadows. Photo courtesy of the Armory.

Hansel & Gretel — Upper East Side
Park Avenue Armory, through August 6
Hansel & Gretel, a collaborative installation with Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, Jacques Herzog, and Pierre du Meuron, is designed to make us think about the many, many surveillance bread crumbs we leave in the modern world. When you walk into the massive, dark space, drones hover above and shadowy surveillance images move below. As you move through the room, your image gets frozen on the floor. Kids and adults alike love playing with their "shadows," leaving behind surveillance portraits beneath their feet. Half the fun of this exhibit is seeing how others interact with the space. While we visited there was a group basically doing an impromptu dance performance, leaving imprints of their poses behind. Don't miss the second part of the exhibit where you can learn about the history of surveillance and also search for your face in the surveillance images taken.

Note: If your children are afraid of the dark, they might not like some sections. It’s a little spooky walking down the first hall into the space just because it’s pitch black.

RELATED: Totally FREE and Crazy Cool Art NYC Kids Can See Outdoors


A giant mushroom, fish, and a giant cube for climbing make Carsten Holler's Reason a must-see. Photo courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

Carsten Holler: Reason — Chelsea
Gagosian Gallery; through August 11
Remember a few years back when the New Museum had a three-story slide that had people lining up around the block? Well artist Carsten Holler is back, this time at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea with more theme-park-esque pieces. The exhibit includes a giant cube that kids are encouraged to climb through, mirrored revolving doors to push, a giant mushroom carousel to turn, and hyper-real little fishes.

RELATED: Let's Dance: New Interactive Exhibit at CMOM


Video by Mommy Poppins.

Lumen — Long Island City, Queens
MoMA PS1; through September 4
Lumen creates an alien-like landscape in the courtyard of MoMA PS1. Used as the adult playground at the museum’s nighttime summer shindigs, it’s also a fun place for kids to romp during the day. Misting water elements even offer a little relief from the heat. Check out our video, which describes it better than we ever could with words.

Note: Don’t skip the indoor exhibits at MoMA PS1. Right inside the lobby are two pieces by Jillian Mayer that will really surprise kids. The first is a colorful sculpture that kids are allowed to climb on. Yes, they can climb on the sculpture in a museum! And then keep your eyes on the floor for a tiny little surprise below.


Don't miss the foam block pit at Hélio Oiticica. Photo by helenesqueens via Instagram

Hé​lio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium — Chelsea
Whitney Museum of American Art; through October 1
Brazilian artist Helio Oiticica creates large scale immersive installations that "challenge" the viewer to take on a more active role than simply art observer. Uh, we’ve got kids; no challenge necessary! This exhibit invites you to climb right into a tub of foam cubes, a bed of straw, books, and other experiences. Of course, the big draw at the Whitney right now is the Calder: Hypermobility exhibit. It’s not a huge show, but it includes a bunch of his automated sculptures. Make sure to visit during one of the scheduled times when they activate them.


The Hans Christian Anderson talking statue in Central Park. Photo by Mommy Poppins

New York Talking Statues — Citywide
Ongoing
Talk about seeing things with fresh eyes; how often do you rush past one of the many statues in NYC, barely thinking about who it’s portraying or what their story was? The New York Talking Statues program fixes that by literally allowing the statues to speak for themselves. There are 35 statues all over NYC. You can use the map to plan a visit to some of them, or just make a new habit of seeking out the blue plaque next to participating sculptures. When you find one, use your cell phone to either scan a QR code or type in a short URL. The statue will call you back and regale you with its tale. It’s a really fun new way to see your city.

Looking for additional culture? Check out our Museum Guide for more must-see installations, galleries, and exhibits kids will love.

Top photo by Pablo Enriquez/courtesy of the museum

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