Perfectly Imperfect Art

I’ve been interested in contemporary art since college, and it’s been a dream of mine to one day display a small but significant collection of art. In fact my husband and I recently contemplated the purchase of a piece by Ed Ruscha and Raymond Pettibon just last weekend, at the Pasadena Museum of California Art 10th Birthday Auction (if you click through, BTW, that’s me and the hubby in that top pic!).

But like most of my friends, our desire for an art collection had to take a backseat to an even stronger desire for food, shelter, and clothing, so we make due with home-sourced works of art and other creative endeavors. That’s one reason why I am a huge fan of the Skirball’s art studio. Visiting the studio offers a great way to unlock the special creative genius within your own family or circle of friends.

Nieces hard at work in the Family Art Studio, while their Aunt Jenn snaps pix.

My nieces hard at work in the Family Art Studio, while their Aunt Jenn snaps pix.

The Skirball’s drop-in art studio, a.k.a. Family Art Studio (or Studio Schmoodio, as a smarty-pants colleague once suggested for a name), is ideal for a group of friends or family wanting to partake in the artful assembly of recycled and repurposed ordinary materials, turning misfit minutiae into mini-masterpieces.

I’m not a parent but have regularly brought all six of my nieces since the Skirball started offering the drop-in art studio during busy summer and holiday weeks. You definitely don’t need to have kids to enjoy the studio, but kids always raise the bar when it comes to fearless innovation in hands-on art making.

I’m proud to share the story of a recent sleepover at my house with Ava and Claire, two of my six nieces, who were at a loss for sufficient dolls.  Looking around our place, they expressed to me their wish to have baby dolls for their bigger dolls to hold. Finally, Ava glanced over at the book shelf, full of the miscellaneous detritus of my life (don’t judge), and she suggested using a set of tiny spools of thread in a rainbow of colors as the “babies.” The girls even matched the color of the thread spool to the outfit worn by the “mama doll.” In true Skirball studio style, it was good fun for us to repurpose stuff that was right in front of us.

I’m also totally captivated by the story of Caine’s Arcade.  He’s another young guy who reminds the adults in his world about repurposing simple materials and cultivating our desire to create.  I had the chance to meet Caine and play in a “pop-up” version of his arcade at a recent Unique LA show. [And for those wanting to follow in Caine’s footsteps, stop by the Skirball on Saturday, October 6, to take part in the Global Cardboard Challenge.]

Left: That’s Caine back there behind his cardboard creations. Right: My husband, Victor, lines up to meet the famous Boyle Heights artist.

Left: That’s Caine back there behind his cardboard creations. Right: My husband, Victor, lines up to meet the famous Boyle Heights artist.

Clearly there is a strong “maker” movement at museums across the country. Museum maven Nina Simon’s blog is full of great examples of how creative participation can enhance visitor engagement, and I’m a huge fan of how the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco encourages the transformation of everyday, kid-identifiable objects into cherished objects worthy of desktop display. Hands-on art making has been such a hit with Skirball visitors that we now take it on the road a couple of times per  year.

Last year when presented live entertainment and hands-on activities at The Grove, the creation of magic medallions was an awesome way to connect creative art-making with our summer 2011 exhibition, Houdini: Art and Magic. I had five of the six nieces participating in that one day. Truly fun for the whole family!

Last year when presented live entertainment and hands-on activities at The Grove, the creation of magic medallions was an awesome way to connect creative art-making with our summer 2011 exhibition, Houdini: Art and Magic. I had five of the six nieces participating in that one day. Truly fun for the whole family!

It is inspiring to see what people who have no formal art training can do when given a clean space, a little bit of raw material, a comfy spot to sit, some time to focus, and a dose of encouragement.  The Skirball’s Family Art Studio will be open again on October 27–28, then every last weekend of the month, plus extended hours during school breaks. See you there!

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Posted in For Families, Recommendations and tagged , .

About Jennifer Caballero

Jennifer Caballero joined the Skirball in 2007 as Marketing Director. The array of program and exhibition content at the Skirball serves as the perfect antidote to her seriously low tolerance for boredom. During your next visit, she might innocently strike up a conversation with you in line at Zeidler’s lunch cart… and then not-so-innocently ask about what specifically motivated your family to visit Noah’s Ark that day. When not at the Skirball she’s often in the carpool lane making the most of a 23-mile commute, or spending time outdoors biking, hiking, and walking with her husband and their poodle mix rescue pup.

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