Following a year-long study, the Explorium of Lexington will roll out an ambitious Art Visualization Plan this month that will further enhance the offerings of the state’s only children’s museum.
After consulting with parents, art teachers, community partners and the university community in Lexington and Louisville, the Explorium is making visual art an integral part of its mission.
The changes feature a renovated Open Art Studio, a mobile multi-touch digital art screen, new art classes and workshops, community art projects and a gallery of children’s art.
“The purpose of this plan is to awaken creativity and free expression in children,” Executive Director Mike Gilmore said.
Opened in Victorian Square in 1990 as the Lexington Children’s Museum, the Explorium, renamed in 2005, focuses on art and science while serving 85,000 visitors a year and another 10,000 through outreach activities.
The Art Visualization Plan will enhance current exhibits and embrace the needs of the broad base of children the museum serves.
“We want to make sure that no one is left out,” said Gilmore, “including at-risk children and underserved children.”
The Open Art Studio, just outside the doors of the Explorium, embraces that idea.
The Studio is free, open to children 10 and under during museum hours and is staffed by a trained art coordinator.
The space has undergone a face lift, with new furniture and new supplies.
The new Studio will offer opportunities for children to create digital art, explore animation, create their own films and participate in a public art piece using found and recycled materials.
This month also marks the debut of a 5½-foot diameter, multi-touch digital art screen that can be moved throughout the museum to allow children to create art in response to any of the existing displays.
“We want the museum to touch as many senses as possible,” Gilmore said.
Children can create a piece of art, save it and view it on the museum’s website. They can also take the art they create and turn it into a puzzle right on the screen.
During the consulting process, Gilmore enlisted the input of consultants John McCarthy, a ceramic sculptor and lecturer of Fine Arts at the University of Louisville, and Debbie Shannon, Education Director of the Louisville Orchestra.
McCarthy has made repeated trips to Lexington to bring his children and grandchildren to visit the Explorium.
He likes the concept of the digital art screen for kids and their parents.
“This enhanced activity allows children to more deeply explore and experience their world,” he said.
“It also encourages discussion and exploration of ideas between the child and adult.”
Gilmore hopes the Explorium can become a repository of children’s art to display in the museum’s gallery.
Said McCarthy: “Choosing to make visual art a priority is a unique way to make the Explorium even more special.”