Monday, December 24, 2012

Fly Away: NYC Part 3: Children's Museum of the Arts

So word is that Disneyworld is "the happiest place on earth," but we're guessing whoever came up with that slogan has never been to the Children's Museum of the Arts in SoHo. This magical place somehow escaped our attention until we were up in NYC facing another day of cold and rain. The other places on our list all required a little more complicated travel and, having faced difficult cross-city travel the day before with the help of two other adults, mom was definitely up keeping it simple because daddy was working and we were on our own. And we all managed to safely take the subway there with no problemo.

The CMA opens at 12 p.m. during the week (except it is closed on Tuesdays), so we first walked over to check out the nearby Hudson River Park, which actually has a ton of stuff for kids to do. But we were cold and cranky and didn't want to play along. So we walked out on the steel piers above the Holland Tunnel - I thought this was pretty cool and had a whole scenario going in which my pirate sidekick Yoko (who is also a cow, you might remember) ran a swimming school off of the pier. And at the same time used explosives to fight bad guys in the tunnel and keep them out of the city. Cami was exhausted and not happy to be in the ghetto umbrella stroller we had with us (we don't really have a comfy "travel" stroller and while mom was glad she didn't have to lug the bugaboo around, which would have been a subway nightmare, she was not happy trying to push that umbrella stroller through city streets). She eventually fell asleep -- about 2 minutes before we got to the museum. She quickly woke up once she saw where we were.

The CMA is a completely hands on art museum for kids that includes:
- a 2,000 sq. foot Gallery (that involves participatory exhibit-related programming);
- a state of the art media lab & sound booth;
- a clay bar;
- a fine art studio;
- a lofted ball pond and slide;
- the WEE arts studio (dedicated to young artists ages 1 to 5); and
- a quiet room for down time

When we arrived, a morning drop-in program in the WEE arts studio was just wrapping up and I wanted to start off in there. Cam and I made fast friends with the resident artist/teachers in the room and we tried to do almost everything offered in the studio: collages, painting, homemade playdough, homemade goop, magnatiles, books, chalk drawing, block building, and on and on. The teachers were fabulous -- encouraging, but not trying to dictate the outcome of any one project. And the entire room is full of kids artwork, much of it collaborative and made by visitors or students over an extended period of time. For example, on the wall above the goop tray was a goop painting that we helped make while we were there. When a layer of goop dried, other kids would get a chance to paint it. Then more goop. Then more paint. There was so much inspiration and good fuel for imagination, we didn't want to leave.

We eventually made it out to the clay bar next. I was more into this than Cam and the artist/teacher there taught me how to make a clay monster and then a clay christmas tree. I had a little bit of a hard time being patient and following the steps, but the teacher was still patient with me.

The current gallery exhibit was full of heroes and villains and both of us enjoyed the exhibit-related programming that involved making a magazine collage figure. Well, at least we really enjoyed the cutting out of magazine part. But mom couldn't keep me out of the adjacent fine art studio, which had a whole new set of projects set up: snowflakes out of popsicle sticks, make your own stamp, more painting, a still-life painting project; and a self-portrait project.

After almost four hours of straight art, mom was getting tired and hungry. We did sneak in a quick animation project, but we decided to skip the media lab and sound booth. Then we finally got our chance in the ball pit, which has assigned age slots, thankfully. After a quick snack in the lobby, mom (rightly) decided we needed to get some fresh air and could hoof it all the way downtown to our apartment. Before we left, mom told me that we were going to pretend to be real New Yorkers on the walk home, which meant holding on to the stroller, walking fast, not stopping at lights (if there were no cars), and pretending that we knew where we were going. I was game. Wouldn't you know that we made it home faster than taking the subway there?

If you do one thing with kids in NYC, let it be this. Here are some tips: (1) if you can, take a WEE arts studio drop in class - it's $25 for non-members, but you get 1/2 price of admission to the museum after the session and you're in before 12; (2) if you go on a weekend, make sure to sign up for certain activities (like the clay bar) when you arrive; (3) check the video screen up front when you arrive to scan all of the projects available that day; and (4) bring a snack for your kids (and yourself!) because your children will not want to leave (if you forget, the front desk sells cheddar bunnies and juice) - there are a few tables and chairs in the lobby for snacking.

New York has no shortage of the arts for kids to check out. The following spots also topped our arts list (but mom is SO SO glad we did the CMA):

- Museum of Modern Art - the iconic Edvard Munch: The Scream is there until the end of April 2013.  Visit MOMA's kids and family page here and check out MOMA's art lab app, one of our favorites, which is on sale for $1.99 through December 31st;

- Metropolitan Museum of Art - Regarding Warhol: Sixty Artists, Fifty Years runs until December 31st and explores Warhol's influence on contemporary art (we always love the Warhols). Visit the MET's kids and family page here.

- Park Avenue Armory - Ann Hamilton: the event of a thread is an interactive, large scale installation in which visitors swing on a field of swings collectively moving a large canvas. Awesome. And kids under 10 are free (even more awesome). On exhibit through January 6, 2013.

- Children's Museum of Manhattan - The Grinch's Holiday Workshop, running through January 6, allows kids to make their own day-glo masks, participate in Seussian word creation, and come up with a character for the Who-ville mural, and much more.

- Museum of Chinese in America - hosting Marvels and Monsters and Alt.Comics through February 24, which analyzes Asian American portrayals in graphic novels.

ALSO, we found this article in New York Family magazine about how to help children enjoy art  museums a good read and the magazine is chock full of good things to do in NYC with kiddos.

Phew. That's it. Well, except for the pictures.

waiting for opening time! a view of the gallery and clay bar peeking through.

super cool collaborative kids art.

kane gets right to work in the WEE room.

goop painting!

collage time!

add a little paint to that. 

3-D cardboard tube art.

Isaac said "don't these blocks look like they need to be knocked down!?"

magnetic mural.

current exhibit.

hanging out at the clay bar.

look at my monster!

media lab and sound booth.

three set-ups for self-portraits. cam couldn't tear herself away from the mirrors and sat there for a long time making different faces!

painting in the fine art studio.

mom's thinking this would be a good bathtub for home.

stamp making!

snowflake making!

quiet room!

ball pit!

I got Annie's autograph on the way out - I loved it here.

making our animation (you can check it out at - watch the video from December 17th and see if you can find our hands!)

some of our collages 

our clay Christmas trees -- only slightly smaller than our real tree this year 

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