I love getting up close and personal with art. As my husband can attest, I’ve been told by museum staff on two separate occasions to back away from a painting. (Of course I wasn’t going to touch the art in question! But I can understand how my close hovering may make a docent slightly nervous.)
For people like me — and for children — the “Please Touch” exhibition at the Akron Art Museum is the perfect sensory outlet.
“Please Touch,” which runs through July 16, offers the added dimension of touch to the traditional museum experience, and asks visitors to explore the work with their eyes and hands. For the exhibition, the museum commissioned a group of local artists whose art had a “playful sensibility” and asked them to create new work that would engage audiences of all ages in new and unique ways, according to Alison Caplan, Akron Art Museum director of education.
Inspired by childhood games, puzzles and lift-the-flap books, artists Jay Croft, Jordan Elise Perme and Christopher Lees, and Erin Guido and Paul Costello created touchable artworks that visitors can manipulate.
“Normally, art is one-way — the artist is speaking to you,” said Gina Thomas McGee, associate educator. “Here, you don’t need the translator of a guide or tour because it’s already speaking to you as you interact with it. This complements all the other educational events we do.”
It was an ideal place to take my 1- and 3-year-old sons on a chilly April morning (wide open spaces, tons of moving parts, and a lobby stocked with books and toys). While my boys are on the younger end of the spectrum, they still enjoyed opening the “flaps” to view the whimsical creatures in Perme and Lees’ “Hiding in the Hollows” area; moving around magnetic decals in Croft’s skateboard piece; and spinning, cranking, pulling and rearranging the works by Guido and Costello.
“You can manipulate and change shapes, and there’s a lot of bright colors,” said Dominic Caruso, marketing manager. “Kids gravitate toward anything that moves and spins. It’s got a good range of activities and things that can be manipulated.”
The museum also was bustling with a school field trip and other young visitors that day.
The Akron Art Museum offers tours, education programs and children’s programs, including the popular Art Babes sessions (I took my oldest to a few when he was a baby) and summer art camp. For more information, visit akronartmuseum.org.