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Learning with the Lite-Brite

Who here had a Lite-Brite when they were kids? Nope, not me! It was the one toy that I remember asking for over consecutive birthdays and Christmases that I never received. And now, many many years later, I still want a Lite-Brite. Lucky for me, I work at the IMA and we have a 7 x 5 foot Lite-Brite in our Star Studio! Though it was built with 3 to 6-year-olds in mind, you might just find me hanging with the little ones creating colorful compositions using neon acrylic pegs.

Image from:

Image from:

But why does the IMA have a giant Lite-Brite at all? Well, it turns out that there are many educational components, beginning with imaginative play. As many early childhood studies have shown, play-based learning enhances the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development in early childhood. And … BONUS … play is an ideal opportunity for grow- ups to engage with their children. The purpose of the Lite-Brite, first made by Hasbro in 1967, is to create images using colored pegs. But Hasbro was not the first to come up with the concept of making pictures using colored dots. The term “pointillism” first came about in the 1880s, when artists like Georges Seurat began to make large-scale paintings using small colored dots of paint. The IMA has a couple of good examples of pointillism — Georges Seurat’s The Channel of Gravelines, Petit Fort Philippe, and Alfred William Finch’s The Road to Nieuport.

But it turns out that the concept of pointillism has been around even longer. Think mosaics. The earliest known mosaics have been dated to 3000 BC! And mosaics use colored stone, glass, shells or the like to create large, and sometimes quite elaborate, works of art.

lite_brite_07_loAnd in the 21st century, dots are everywhere! You are reading this on your computer or some other sort of digital device that produces words, pictures and graphics using pixels. Pixels are just little colored dots of light that, when arranged in a particular order, make an image. Which brings us back to the Lite-Brite … now ready for play and learning in the Star Studio on Floor 2.

Filed under: Art, Education


A Space for Play

Design rendering for Star Studio.

Design rendering for Star Studio.

I imagine the next week will feel very much like the countdown for a NASA space shuttle mission.  “T-7 days and counting.   Activate all personnel.  Review discussed layout.  Load in tables, chairs, and art supplies.  Backup and review tech systems.  Complete preliminary security and housekeeping inspections.  T-0.  Unlock the doors.”  Admittedly, this is both exciting and terrifying.  After nearly a year of planning and preparation, Star Studio will reopen to the public on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 11 am sharp with a very different vibe.

And so the story goes, on a cloudy day in March, a team of museum educators drafted a dreamy vision statement based on results gleaned from the 2012 IMA Family Study: “Inspired by the IMA’s collection, its resources, and related aspects of the visual arts, programs and activities in Star Studio encourage families to imagine, explore, create, share, and collaborate with art in new ways.”  We asked both members and non-members to test activities based on these five overarching themes during a set of focus groups.

In each section, adults are provided with the tools to teach fundamental art concepts such as color, line, shape, and texture, to children under the age of twelve in fun and innovative ways.  In the first section, Imagine, visitors are invited to think creatively about the art-making process.  Rules, instructions, and templates are absent.  Visitors are encouraged to create art from a set of traditional and non-traditional media, including paint, drawing materials, and clay, but also twist ties, bubble wrap, and packing peanuts.  The second section, Explore, includes a tactile table designed to stimulate the senses, promote creativity, and assist in the development of fine motor skills.  For the third experience, visitors are invited to Create.  They can use the iPad Free Draw Station to create their own works of art. Upon completion, visitors may email their drawings to themselves, friends, and family.  Another activity in this section invites young visitors to engage in imaginary play. By donning a construction hat and pretending to be construction workers kids help build R. Indiana City using an assortment of building blocks.  Share allows visitors to write or draw responses to a phrase on a large-scale chalkboard wall.  Additionally, Share includes an interactive photo booth, giving visitors the opportunity to capture images of the works they created, which are also projected on a wall.  And lastly, Collaborate encourages participants to socialize with other patrons by working together on a community art project.

Bonus!  A series of facilitated programs are now offered in the classroom on Wednesdays and weekends. For more information, please check out our calendar.

Filed under: Audience Engagement, Education


Slow Motion Conversation

We’ve been busy in Star Studio during Andy Warhol Enterprises…then again, it might be more accurate to say that our visitors have been busy. Star Studio is a space designed to encourage visitors of all ages  to participate in hands-on exploration of works of art on display at the IMA.  Star Studio projects encourage visitors to think about art by making art of their own, by creating in dialogue with the work on display.  Andy Warhol Enterprises has definitely sparked quite a few of those creative conversations in Star Studio.  We’ve divided the activities in Star between making art and writing about the intersection between art and commerce.

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Filed under: Art, Current Events, Education, Local


Dreaming with Julie Dash

Acclaimed film director Julie Dash worked with six area high school students over the course of their participation in the IMA’s Museum Apprentice Program to produce short films featured in the exhibition Smuggling Daydreams into Reality: Yesterday, Today and Forever.

The exhibition opened Saturday and runs through January 18, 2010 in the IMA’s Star Studio. I spent my Tuesday lunch in the exhibition. The students’ video works and the film documenting the process with Dash drew me in. I was also tempted to add my own daydream to an IMA Flickr set shown in the exhibition as a slideshow. But my stomach was growling so I’ll have to go back.

I was delighted to sit down with Julie for a quick chat earlier this year.

Julie Dash. Photo courtesy of Geechee Girls Multimedia. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Art, Education, Exhibitions, Interviews


Tidying Up

I received an email the other day from a good friend with whom I attended the Cleveland Institute of Art in the mid 1990’s. He had been back to Cleveland for a visit, and had met up with another CIA painting alum to walk the galleries at the Cleveland Museum of Art. He wrote about revisiting paintings that had been important to him during school, like Rubens’ Portrait of Isabella Brant and about other paintings that stood out now, at this different moment in his life, including an Inness landscape. I haven’t been back to Cleveland since 1999, and I’m curious about which paintings might stop me now, and how different the list might be for me today than it would have been 10 years ago. To tell the truth, it isn’t necessary to travel to a museum that I haven’t been to for many years to have a similar experience. I’ve been working at the IMA for a little over five years, and I am amazed by how often a work of art that I haven’t paid much attention to suddenly asserts itself.

Isabel Bishop’s Tidying Up

Isabel Bishop’s Tidying Up

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Filed under: Art, Exhibitions, Musings


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