I confess: I’m a notorious metaphor-mixer – a veritable verbal cyclone of words and dashes. At a keyboard, however, I more capably lasso and tame the beast. So with some trepidation, I use the phrase “hidden in plain sight” to encourage all ages to explore Art Park, the Woodson Art Museum’s interactive family gallery.
Disguised as a play area, Art Park offers hands-on art projects, no- and low-tech engagement, accessible art lessons, and the limitless world of imagination. As the familiar Reading Hills and “treeosks” beckon, the delight in new experiences manifests with each exhibition.
Art Park experiences are a part of my family’s story from well before I became a staff member. Our then 3-year-old daughter took her daddy to the opening of Art Park. A local news crew recorded her joy as she engaged in a “treeosk” activity. Today, this daughter borrows her daddy’s car and volunteers at the Museum. Across those years, Art Park has been refreshed and updated (with exhibition-specific materials and experiences) over fifty times. Thousands of toddlers, school-age children, tweens, and teens have entertained moms, dads, caregivers, grandparents, neighbors, and aunts and uncles in Art Park.
Bring anyone – newborn to 100+ years – and watch the discovery and interaction percolate. I especially delight at watching weekend visitors gather around the pine table (engraved with botanical drawings), rub imprints onto paper, and share an experience – literally, gathering around the table.
Art Park isn’t a ready-made kit provided by a supplier or other museums. Art Park is created by Woodson Art Museum staff . . . for each exhibition. The interactives are conceived, designed, and built by staff; not a freelance crew, but by staff whose daily work at the Museum may not be obvious, but whose absence would be.
Joe and Dave – facilities manager and assistant, respectively – keep the building in working order and everything ship shape and in its place. Have you noticed that the Museum is spotless? I guarantee you’d notice if it wasn’t. Though their daily labors are inconspicuous, Joe and Dave reveal their hidden talents in each Art Park installation. Joe is a master craftsman and Dave, an accomplished studio artist. Look at the workmanship and artistry of the tic-tac-toe picnic table or flower-sorting station. Marvel at the carving on the pine board. Open the drawers of the curiosity cabinet to discover secrets.
Shannon is another of the covert talents behind Art Park. If you are a weekday visitor, you may not know Shannon. To weekend visitors and volunteers, however, Shannon is a familiar and welcoming face holding down the fort at Visitor Services. Beginning with Birds in Art 2015, Shannon’s considerable artistic talent and appealing, sophisticated aesthetic will be evident in Art Park, a community art project, and more.
Visit the Woodson Art Museum nestled in a wooded, historic neighborhood. Explore the galleries. Take a trek to Art Park. Wind through the building to the galleries where gems from the Museum’s 5000+-piece collection are assembled in Shoreline Symphony. Did I mention the Secret Garden?
Discover all that is hidden in plain sight at the Woodson Art Museum.
PS: I counted five metaphors successfully used and left relatively intact.