One of the things we always try to do at Mommy Poppins is to look beyond typical kid activities and share cultural happenings that aren't aimed at children but can be enriching and fun for the whole family. Many of my family's most amazing NYC moments are when my mini-mes found inspiration and excitement in some amazing happening that was a little bit above their heads.
In that vein, we're starting a new series called Take the Kids where we'll highlight a grown-up exhibit, performance or other event that we shared with our kids and everyone loved. We acknowledge that all kids and families are different and—especially when you are pushing boundaries—not everyone will dig the same thing. Our goal here is to encourage you to try something new.
Our first Take the Kids pick is the Guggenheim Museum's Gutai: Splendid Playground, an artistic treat my usually reticent son couldn't get enough of. Read on to find out what this exhibit has in store for kids, how to get the most out of your visit, plus inspiration for activities to try at home. Bonus: We're giving away some special prizes from the Guggenheim Museum to encourage everyone to share their visit to the exhibit, too.
On the face of it, Gutai: Splendid Playground seems way too esoteric to be kid-friendly. Gutai is a Japanese art collective that, while influential pioneers of the environmental art movement, aren't well known outside of the art world. You don't really need to understand any of that to enjoy the exhibit. The Gutai work is playful and the way that each piece was made is as important as the final product, which gives the artwork a backstory that brings it to life for children.
Here are ten tips to help you enjoy Gutai more with kids:
Rev Your Artistic Engines: My son is not usually enthusiastic about going to an art museum. This trip was entirely different, however, and I owe it to a new book called Speeding Down the Spiral: An Artful Adventure, a picture book about a visit to the Guggenheim Museum. The story is about a stroller that gets away at the top of the Guggenheim and, well, you can guess what happens next. What's particularly great about the book is that it includes a catalog of the museum's permanent collection. My son loved looking at all the artwork in the book. For days before our trip, he kept asking when we would go to the museum so he could get a poster of his favorite. With our pumps primed to be excited about art, we had a much better chance of enjoying the show once there.
Enjoy the Building: The Guggenheim is a work of art in itself and the Gutai exhibit takes full advantage of the incredible space. When you enter, you can't help but be a little awed by the first piece: ribbons of color that hang across the central atrium. What are they? How were they made? We were immediately drawn in by the magic. Once at the top, look down over the railing. There's a lot to see. "Even the elevator is beautiful," exclaimed my son.
Get into the Process: Taking a moment to read the title cards next to each piece will shed light on the interesting processes and materials the artists used. For instance, my son loved that one painting was created by throwing bottles filled with paint at the canvas.
Celebrate Resourcefulness: The Gutai artists were often forced to be extra-creative with their materials due to limited means. It's interesting to see the inventive things they did and the unusual materials they used. Without money for canvas, one artist glued layers of newspaper together to create a painting surface. It didn't hold up and the piece includes a gaping hole. Talk about making lemonade…there's a life lesson for you.
Solve a Mystery: While in the museum you may hear a bell ringing periodically and wonder what it is. Keep an eye out for a obscure button that will solve this fun mystery. (Hint: It's on level 2).
Know When to Go: One of the most fun pieces is a box that dispenses original art postcards when a $1 bill is inserted, but it only operates on Mondays and Fridays. If your schedule allows, try to go then. And bring singles.
Attend a Family Program: The Guggenheim offers drop-in family programs every Sunday that help kids get into Gutai. There is also a stroller tour of the exhibition on Saturday, May 7
Do a Kids' Tour: Download the new free Guggenheim app (iOS only) or borrow a device at the museum. The app includes kids' tours of Gutai and other exhibits.
Bring It Home: Inspired by the way the Gutai artists worked? When you get home, brainstorm different nontraditional methods and materials to make a painting. How about spray bottles filled with diluted paint? Or a popcorn painting? Gutai artists observed no limits beyond their creativity and sense of fun.
Share Your Experience: Art is best enjoyed together. Check out Gutai at the Guggenheim and share photos from your visit on our Pinterest or Facebook pages, and you could win a Guggenheim Family Four Pack or a copy of Speeding Down the Spiral.
Here's How To Enter:
(click on the image to open it in Pinterest)
Or Enter on Facebook: Share your GutaiKids images on our Facebook Contest Page.
Grand Prize: A Guggenheim Family Pack including four admission passes, a Gutai catalog and a Family Activity Guide to the museum.
Runner-ups: Three runner-ups will win a copy of Speeding Down the Spiral picture book by Deborah Goodman Davis.
Rules: Contest ends at midnight on Friday, May 6. Winners will be selected randomly. All images submitted must be the work of the individual submitting them.
Gutai: Splendid Playground is on view at the Guggenheim Museum through Sunday, May 8.
Read about other cool kid-friendly exhibits in our Museum Guide.