One of the reasons my wife and I decided to stay and raise our boys in Manhattan instead of joining the homesteaders in Westchester, New Jersey, or Connecticut is we are only 20 minutes away from a unique and engaging cultural event. However, finding the time to take advantage of these events is a different story.
The boys and I finally made it to a Target First Saturdays. Per the museum's Web site, Target First Saturdays "offer special, hands-on programs designed for families with children and young adults 5 to 15 years old, conducted by trained New Museum educators the first Saturday of each month."
The raft ride, walking through the wolf pack, the exploding car, and the spectacle of familiar objects helped make the Cai Guo exhibit a big hit with the boys and the Darger exhibit a disappointment. I enjoyed the latter but it was wrongheaded of me to bring the boys. They still need to interact with an exhibit. Just looking is not enough.
That Saturday at our first First Saturday, just as the curator/educator leading our group said not to touch the paintings, I turned to see my youngest jumping up in an attempt to tap a low hanging corner of a painting. It had been hung at an angle, catching his eye. The moment seemed yanked out of a sitcom. The timing of her statement and my catching my son couldn't have been any more coincidental.
Happily we were not cast out immediately. The talk was brief but focused us on the overall theme of the museum's new exhibit: Color. The current exhibit, CLUE (color location ultimate experience) is a collaborative installation that "adapts to the space it temporarily occupies... at the New Museum, it takes the form of site-specific performance, multichannel video installation, and video projection. The flexible nature of this project embraces multiple arrangements of its parts, allowing the environment to inform its presentation."
The curator/educator successfully drew the children into a question and answer about the paintings that hung around the room. She asked, "What colors do you see? What do you think the title on the painting means? What do the colors together look like?" etc. It was the directions afterwards that had some parents confused (including me). However, even that had its positives as the boys and I wandered directionless through the galleries. As an adult, sometimes it feels good to be able to enjoy getting from point A to point B without the urgency of the usual 9 to 5 deadlines.
Tuning in the teacher in me: The duration of the presentation worked well. Twenty minutes not including the time it took the kids to settle down. While I would have preferred to have been asked one or two guided questions, lead from painting to painting and then asked to apply the questions to what I saw, I wasn't a teacher at that moment. I was a parent who with other parents in the room saw his children excited about being drawn into a new experience.
The highlight of the event for both the children and me was when the elevator doors opened and we went from rooms dotted with color to a bright pristine white room untouched by it. Despite the cold, it was a beautiful morning whose best aspects were preserved in the room. And what resonated most was when the children began to draw. I tried to take some pictures of it but none really captured the spectacle of the process.
The room was so brightly lit and immaculate, it was easy to be awed by the colors that began to seep into the scene as the children used the available crayons to create the iron-on patterns for their T-shirts and a mural on the big blank sheet laid out on the floor. The culminating activity was the creation of a shirt based on the paintings that were introduced at the beginning of the event.
While in my opinion there were parts of the session that could have been better orchestrated, my boys' enthusiasm over their shirts overshadows any negatives of the event. They wore the shirts they made for days.