Pop-Up at the Autry Museum!

by Alex Coté

The Autry Museum of the American West was bustling with activity, but it wasnʼt because a famous artist was present or a new gallery had opened. Instead, the art museumʼs muralled central room bustled with the ideas of children busily clicking Lego together, erecting a village of cardboard box forts, and laughing with joy from nothing more than a few pieces of string and clothespins at our largest Pop-Up Adventure Playground to date.

I was skittering from box fort to box fort handing out tape and assisting cutting out windows and doors when a girl stopped to ask me, “Can I build a fort too?”. It seemed to me she was both asking for permission to start and wondering at her luck that we were really saying it was okay to build, make a mess, and impose her own ideas on the space in a museum!

“Of course!”, I answered, “Thereʼs an empty box you can use. Let me know if you need any help!”. She immediately took her box to an empty corner and started setting up her house.

Meanwhile, a large group of older boys happened upon a giant abandoned fort and they started fixing it up. They used large pieces of discarded cardboard to fill gaps and plenty of tape which I was happy to provide. Three smaller boys near them had met that day and their respective families wisely hung back and chatted amongst themselves while the boys experimented with sending their Lego cars down a cardboard ramp that was attached to their fort. All around children were having big ideas and making them come to life.

Walking through the room you would see elaborately decorated cardboard homes with curtains and furniture, written evidence of imaginary games on cardboard walls such as “pirate flag” written in masking tape, egg crate roofing tiles, and lots of telescopes poking through walls. Some children made smaller creations with the recyclable materials: a little bed from a small box and cloth and string, and many more creations which only the children knew what they were! The evidence of play was all around.

When the children left the play room and walked through the museum they would be greeted by the creations of artists who used their creativity to make art. I wonder if they were able to see themselves reflected in that process that day? How crucial to have a place within an art museum for creation; in the home of the work of imaginative thinkers and creators, the next generation of artists were gifted with a place to make and create through play.

If youʼd like to tell your favorite museum, school, street fair, or Parks & Rec. program about our Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds, send them the info. found here!

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