"You can touch things," said Jared Steffensen of the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art to the parents and kids gathered at the museum’s first Stroller Tour last month.
Steffensen, the museum’s education curator, was explaining the works in the traveling exhibition "do it" — a collection of artists’ instructions for works that are recreated at each site — before donning a sweater that made his body into a sculpture, a concept designed by artist Erwin Wurm.
For my stroller-strapped twins, Amelia and Isabella, then 11-months old, trying to crawl into clothing through alternate openings is more of an everyday event rather than art. Still, I appreciated the chance to expose them to contemporary artworks, even if crying might have been involved.
For Bryce Barker, the 15-month-old son of former Tribune reporter Julia Lyon, the biggest attraction was artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ "Untitled" (1994), a pile of candy in a gallery corner that was meant to represent an influential person in the artist’s life. For the Salt Lake City exhibit, the piece was created with local flair out of salt-water taffy.
A group of 35 parents and kids turned out for last month’s first Stroller Tour, and included some frequent visitors, such as Steffensen’s two sons, North, 3, and Oskar, 18 months.
After the tour, North asked more questions than usual about the artworks, about whether they could make a sweater sculpture at home and about the colors in a line drawing made from the instructions of artist Sol LeWitt, Steffensen said.
For the March event, Steffensen plans to distribute tickets that will help families know which art pieces are touchable and which might need more protection. He plans to spotlight several humorous conceptual pieces, such as a bicycle set up to squeeze lemons or a table attached to the ceiling.
The "do it" exhibit explores the intersection between interpretation and creativity, in the same way a school art project showcases 20+ students’ intepretations of a teacher’s instructions, he said.
He hopes a gallery visit can help even the youngest children begin to understand that art can be something else beyond a painting on a wall. Perhaps later parents can help budding artists understand how a creative mind can see possibilities that might develop into conceptual artworks.
At the museum, Ai Fujii Nelson seemed to have the logistics of an artistic adventure all figured out, as her daughter, Maya, then 9 months-old, was outfitted in a bib and ready to eat spoonfuls of puree during the tour. "I’m into the idea of exposing her to all kinds of art," said Nelson, a former Ririe-Woodbury dancer who now teaches at Ballet West Academy and Children’s Dance Theatre.
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