MoMA Art Lab – Where Kids Can Be Artists for a Day

A mother and child play with the animated entry wall to MoMA Art Lab: Movement. Photo by Martin Seck


    Bringing a small child to an art museum is one of those ideas that seems good in principle, but there are three words that strike fear into many a well-intended parent’s heart: Do Not Touch. No mother wants to watch her kid add his own doodles to a Brice Marden painting or attempt to scale a Rodin sculpture. But such fears have no basis at MoMA Art Lab, a special place to introduce kids to modern art in a way they can relate to.

    The Art Lab, one of many family-friendly programs at MoMA, is an all-ages space that encourages hands-on experimentation, play, and creativity through activities directly connected to the MoMA collections that mom and dad love to look at.

    Art Lab visitors—ranging in age from toddlers to teens—get to touch anything, make a mess and even be artists themselves. “We really hope that we’re changing families’ ideas of what a museum visit can be,” said Cari Frisch, Associate Educator of Family Programs. “Kids learn through tactile experiences so we’re trying to provide those kinds of activities at the museum.”

    All of the projects at the Art Lab are centered around a theme. Currently, it’s the idea of movement, which informs activity stations from DIY Alexander Calder-inspired mobiles to more elaborate media works involving stop-motion animation and digital painting.

    Young creatives can choose from colorful cubbies containing activity boxes that invite them to “Design a Vehicle,” and includes images of cars and a helicopter in MoMA’s design collection for inspiration. Or they can “Experiment With Optical Illusions,” and make their own Marcel Duchamp-inspired spinning tops. A box that says “Move to the Music!” has a toolkit that includes a CD player, images of artists’ work from the MoMA collection, and paper and colored pencils so visitors can listen to music those artists would have listened to and draw at the same time.

    Elsewhere in the MoMA Art Lab, media-savvy visitors can learn about movement by creating their own stop-motion animation films. They start by moving objects over backgrounds including a New York City-style apartment facade, then take snapshots of the items in various positions. An iPad program called iStopMotion creates the film which can be shared right from the device.

    Kids who are jonesing for a video game fix can get their yayas out with a digital painting program designed by Ruxy Staicut and Siheun Cho, where visitors can create their own Abstract Expressionist masterpieces and understand how artists might have moved to create their works of art. The display booth next to it plays a curated selection of films from the MoMA collection that address movement, including Bruce Nauman’s Slow Angle Walk (Beckett Walk).

    The Art Lab is open every day, from 10:30am to 4:30pm (6:30pm on Fridays) and is free with museum admission!

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    Visitors enjoying time in MoMA Art Lab. Courtesy of Martin Seck.

    Through the MoMA Art Lab, explains Elizabeth Margulies, Assistant Director of Family Programs, kids discover movement in all kinds of ways, whether it’s works of art that actually move or merely imply movement, or how the artists themselves move through the creative process. In the end they’ll learn how a day at the museum can be way more fun than playing video games on the couch.

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