by Melissa Rygalski
Sunday afternoon: a bored, intense six year old and a frazzled mama. Family Day at the Nasher Museum? Absolutely.
I am convinced the Nasher Museum is magical. The moment we walk through the door there is a buzz, an excitement. A smiling volunteer greets us and tells us about the amazing kid-friendly activities in progress. My daughter’s sour mood shifts instantly, as does mine…we are now so obviously in a very special place. Our imaginations have permission to fully kick into high gear and we are surrounded by folks filled with the same sense of wonder and joy.
As we walk across the museum we plot our course. We decide to take turns as creators and spectators, beginning with art-making. Our first activity: customize a blank tote bag with beautiful Matisse-inspired fabric swatches. My daughter carefully cuts freehand letterforms from the bright, boldly patterned fabric and arranges them just-so on the bag. A cheerful museum volunteer heat sets my daughter’s design onto the bag and the final result, everyone’s final result, is positively amazing. All smiles everywhere, everyone is having a blast experimenting with fabric and color.
We take a small break from art-making and wander through the museum’s permanent collection for some inspiration, visiting our old favorites and considering new work. When that becomes a little static for the six year old set, we shake things up and little hands eagerly find their way back to artwork.
After spying some stylish kids with fantastical head gear, we opt for the hat making activity. The activity is being held in a bright, sunny, and lovely classroom. A full wall of windows gives the space an airy feeling even though it is practically bursting at the seams with beaming children and grownups. It feels like a celebration, a carnival; there is a certain festival quality to it all, feathers and fabric and sparkly gewgaws piled on tables. Everyone is having an absolutely marvelous time. We stand in line and wait to be fitted for a hat.
The hats themselves are innovative for their use of material: large newsprint sheets molded around the designer’s noggin, then a hatband of colored tape wrapped around the crown keeping the form stable. It’s so disarmingly simple, such an unassuming prompt… and utterly perfect. My daughter spirits her plain jane hat to a table and spends the next hour (or more) completely immersed in her labors…making an elaborate piece of art in the guise of a hat. Infinite, exotic variations on this basic theme are materializing throughout the room. There are children crowned with feathers, beading, trim, pipe cleaners, tulle, colored tape; everything finessed into outlandish and gorgeous forms. Fauvist riots of color rule the day and I’ll bet these fanciful millinery creations would make even the most sophisticated Victorian lady green with envy.
We bump into friends and before we know it, it is time to go. How did the hours fly by so quickly? My daughter has lovely artwork to bring home. She will carefully carry her hat to school on Monday for show and tell. And I am feeling blissful: a Sunday afternoon with my little one spent immersed in art, both observing and making, surrounded by my neighbors and friends. What on Earth could possibly be better?
The next Free Family Day will be Sunday, March 17th from 12-4 PM. Student dancers from Arts in Action will perform at 1 PM and Josh Lozoff of Deep Magic will perform throughout the afternoon. There will be a gallery hunt to guide families through the permanent collection and Light Sensitive, plus multiple hands-on art activities.
Photo by J Caldwell