Kids Engage with Artists at Artspace!

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A tour group enjoys Tanya Casteel’s ceramic pieces.

This summer has turned out to be a busy one for youth tour groups of 9 through 12 year olds visiting Artspace for the first time.  A popular question kids tend to ask at the beginning of the tours – “Are the artists alive here?”

You can’t help but smile at this question and appreciate its direct simplicity. It’s a great question though that helps distinguish Artspace from a traditional art museum.  Many children by this age have visited an art museum and may only be familiar with artwork by such well-known artists as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, or Picasso – who have since passed away. Also, you normally don’t catch artists creating their art within a museum setting, making Artspace a unique and inspiring place for visitors of all ages.

During the tours, I’m happy to answer that, yes! Artspace has living and breathing professional artists working in the building in an open studio environment, allowing visitors the opportunity to meet with artists and discover their various artistic processes.  Two studio artists recently shared with me the kind of thought-provoking conversations they’ve encountered with youth tour groups.

Linda Ruth Dickinson, studio 216, recently had a youth dance group visit her studio. Immediately the kids greeted her at the entrance of her studio with “ohs and ahs” as they take in all the colors from her paintings. The front of her studio displays several abstract paintings full of solid, large and thin, strokes of color on canvas and wood panel that optically plays with their perception.

Linda asks the group, “What do you see?”

The group first responds, “They look like sunsets or sunrises.”

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Linda Ruth Dickinson works on one of her paintings.

Linda can tell they’re taking in what they’re seeing, but searching for more ways to describe her artwork. So Linda asks another question, “How do the paintings make you feel?” They all start to chime in and say, “I feel peaceful…calm…bright…happy…hopeful.”

Linda approaches the children with these types of questions to show how emotional connections help explore abstract art and open the door to conversations on larger concepts like spirituality and hope in her artwork. The open-ended dialogue reveals the kids’ intuitive thinking, and their spot-on observations continue to amaze her every time.

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Artist Mary Kircher showing the loom to the students.

Another fun aspect of studio visits is our artist demonstrations! Mary Kircher, studio 107, is a fiber artist who specializes in hand weaving and dye techniques to create wearable pieces like scarves or one-of-a-kind wall art hangings. The first thing kids are drawn to in her studio is her loom.

They’ll ask such questions as:  “How many threads are on the loom? How long does it take to make a piece? Can I try the loom?”  Sometimes the answer is yes.

“Both kids and adults are curious about the loom and want to see it in action,” Mary Kircher explains. She enjoys demonstrating how it functions. She points out certain clothing the children are wearing as examples of the weaving techniques and dye processes she is exploring like ikat and shibori. If demonstrating her dye pot process she’ll compare it to tie-dye t-shirts, which most of the kids have tried before. “It’s like taking tie-dye to a new level with woven shibori.”

As a staff member of Artspace, encounters like these described with Linda and Mary inspire me to create art of my own. I suspect that many of the kids who visit feel the same way, and make a dash for their art supplies when they get home from one of our tours.

About Katie Gunter

Katie Gunter is the administrative assistant at Artspace. She is responsible for distributing information to visitors about Artspace, as well as coordinating the Gift Shop and assisting with various programming projects and administrative tasks. She creates her own jewelry and has a passion for printmaking. She received her BA in arts management and minored in art history from Salem College, Winston-Salem in 2008.

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