The typical art museum experience for adults is pretty comfortable: paintings hung at eye level, captions that share insights into works of art, and staff or volunteers available to answer questions.
But a kid might easily find the adult museum experience to be too big, too still, and too two-dimensional.
The solution? The Museum offers children their own enriching arts experience with a dedicated interactive space. Known as Kids’ Corner, this junior oasis on the Museum’s lower level has fostered creative exploration for several generations of visitors, some of whom are old enough to return to the space with their own children.
HISTORY OF THE KIDS’ CORNER
Created in 1987, and later named Kids’ Corner, this child-friendly space on the Museum’s lower level has been reimagined regularly in recent years. Each incarnation is designed to foster creative and imaginative play, hands-on exploration, and storytelling.
And we really love the way the latest changes to the Kids’ Corner have changed the Museum as a whole.
Three families—all including artists from Delaware, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey—have designed the last four installations since 2016:
Kaleidoscope Cove was designed by the Volta Family in 2016.
Lenny the Ice Cream Man was dreamed up by the Smith Family in 2017.
Creative Power was the work of the Silverman Family in 2018.
Most recently, in 2019, the New Jersey-based Smith family—Daniel, Elin, and children Lilly, Ida, and Lukas—was tapped for a second time to reshape Kids’ Corner into an immersive art-as-play experience. More than just a paint job and new textiles, Kids’ Corner has been transformed into a colorful enchanted forest, with paths winding around giant trees containing tiny, magical displays. This second Smith imagining is called, “Who Hears Twell Van Dunder?” [Who here is twelve and under?] and is an immersive celebration of childhood and a place for older people to rediscover the wonder of play.
Still in place in Kids’ Corner at the start of 2023, it has original music by the Smiths, a shimmering, magnetic-fishing “pond,” stool-sized mushrooms encircling a fabric campfire, and a plush bird’s nest seat. The walls bear murals depicting sunsets and trees. A larger than life-sized, furry sheepdog named “Twell Van Dunder” is part of the décor, and makes for an Instagrammable posing destination.
The Museum is poised to reimagine the area, once again, and it’s looking for families to become our next Family-in-Residence. No, we aren’t asking a family to move in. Our Family-in-Residence concept is modeled after the widely known artist-in-residence model, wherein a museum recruits an artist to create work(s) and/or programming for a defined period of time. Instead of just one person, we want a whole family to conceptualize, design, and install the entire Kids’ Corner space.
Saralyn Rosenfield, the Museum’s Director of Learning & Engagement, describes how an artist-in-residence ask became a family-in-residence reality: “Artists are really busy and what we often hear is that they want more time with their families. The artist we approached to do the 2016 installation was someone who had a successful history of residencies. He actually came up with the idea to do this with his family, and we were thrilled!”
Just like we are reimagining the space, the Museum is reimagining the in-residence format.
What was once a fun idea to liven up a space was formalized into a full-on program. While our unique Family-in-Residence experiment began in 2016, we are rolling out a formal search for a new artistic family in 2023.
We invite regional creatives to watch for an announcement by the spring, and prepare to apply for this residency, which will start in the fall. We look forward to planning the next Kids’ Corner installation—and an opening celebration—with the selected family.
For the Family-in-Residence program, we encourage intergenerational collaboration on the look, vibe, materials, and interactive offerings of Kids’ Corner. Family can be however you define it, as long as each member contributes their own creative touch. As always, we hope the opportunity provides quality time for artists and their families.
We look forward to welcoming artists and their families to apply for the next Family-in-Residence.
HOW ME MAKE IT HAPPEN
Kids’ Corner has been fortunate to have support by the Pollyanna Foundation and Phyllis and Buddy Aerenson. The “Who Hears Twell Van Dunder” installation was also supported by Mannington Floor and Quality Finishers. Additional support is provided, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts. The Division promotes Delaware arts events on www.DelawareScene.com.