If you are like me, during the summer months you take your kids away on vacations, spend time at the beach or pool, and allow them the down time they both want and need. Despite all the fun and games, you probably try to keep their academic skills sharp with reading, writing, and math activities, and all these things can fill out the schedule on these long, hot summer days.
I am also always looking for galleries, museums, and theaters with programs that will expand their horizons while providing them enjoyable and entertaining opportunities. Imagine my delight when I discovered that my kids could learn all about “pop art,” Andy Warhol, and his artistic world while getting a true hands-on experience in the silkscreen process.
The traveling exhibit The Art of Andy Warhol is now at the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City, Long Island. Housed on the first floor of the museum, the exhibit includes a gallery with original artwork from Warhol’s “Myth” Series. There is also a recreation of Warhol’s “Factory,” where there is an opportunity for kids to create their own individual works of art by stepping into a silkscreen studio and actively participating in the process from conceptualizing the work to making the finished product.
First we sat down at a table with paper and scissors and had to think about what we wanted to create. My son chose to make geometric shapes because he is enjoying those in our home math lessons right now. He also, for some reason, chose to draw a rabbit. After cutting out the shapes, arranging them on the pattern square, and choosing a color, we were ready to put them through the silkscreen process.
We were assisted by guide/artist Megan, who not only showed us the steps to make our work of art, but gave a thorough history lesson regarding the start of the “pop art” movement in the 1950s, Warhol’s role as its leading figure, and his considerable influence on notable artists including Keith Haring, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons, an influence which continues today as art students and art lovers look to his work for inspiration.
One thing that Megan mentioned which really fascinated my son was that Warhol made it acceptable to take everyday objects like soup cans and turn them into art. I could see the wheels turning in his head as he listened and no doubt imagined household items he would be using in future projects.
Megan guided us through the silkscreen process once we selected the ink (we chose blue) and poured it into the silkscreen bed, where my son used a wide brush in the “inking process” that turned our paper and images into a work of art.
As our masterpiece began to dry, we walked around the gallery, looking at the original artwork. Disney fans that we are, we were drawn to Warhol’s Mickey Mouse but also liked the other works that included images of Santa Claus, Uncle Sam, Superman, and the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. My son was also intrigued by The Shadow, a self-portrait that gave him an idea about the person behind these works of art.
There was a Costume and Book Center in the gallery where kids can dress in the costumes of the characters in the artworks (sadly, there was a waiting list for Superman and Mickey), but the opportunity was also there to explore the background of these characters through provided books and online resources.
Upcoming events in exhibit include Artist-in-Residence Programs running throughout the summer. Also upcoming on August 4 from 1-4 p.m. is “Wonderful Warhol,” which will allow children to explore the artist’s life and work through different crafts and activities. The goal is for participants to “discover the artist in you” by creating works of art by using new techniques and their wonderful imaginations.
In the museum’s press release, LICM President Suzanne LeBlanc captures our experience in the gallery:
The Art of Andy Warhol exhibit provides children with a studio experience, allowing them to immediately apply what they are seeing and learning. The images in Warhol’s ‘Myths” series are playful and relatable to all ages; providing opportunities for children and adults to begin a conversation about art.
LICM has many more exciting exhibits and galleries for your children to explore. Since we are members, we visit throughout the year for special events, but definitely make a habit of going there for a “field trip” more often during the summer months.
As we left the museum with our now dry work of art, my son was beaming with the thought that he had created something special. I appreciated the opportunity to be able to collaborate, create, and learn with him in an atmosphere so conducive to inspiring young people to know more about an essential part of their cultural heritage. We talked about the experience all the way home, thus fulfilling what Ms. LeBlanc noted about starting a “conversation about art” that I plan to continue. Needless to say we are going back to check out the Artist-in-Residence programs next week.
The Art of Andy Warhol exhibition was conceived by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and is supported locally by Astoria Bank and an award by the National Endowment for the Arts. The exhibition is free with museum admission fee and runs until September 4, 2016.