Letter: Art, sculpture are not child's play
As a former playground and play structure designer/builder and currently an active sculptor and the organizer of the SculptureNow exhibitions, I strongly disagree with John Seven's column in the Feb. 4 Eagle condoning and encouraging children to climb on artwork.
Playground structures may be designed to look like sculptures, but they must be built in a manner that is safe for children. Therefore a sculpture that is not intended for climbing or other physical interaction can cause a child to get hurt.
By applauding a child climbing on the sculpture by Donald Judd as an "act of conceptual art performance rebellion" and "a challenge to the art world" Mr. Seven is encouraging children to climb on all artwork. The fact that this particular sculpture is famous and valuable, and apparently not to the liking of Mr. Seven, is not relevant to the respect that should be shown to it, and other pieces of artwork.
I am wondering if Mr. Seven saw the Judd sculpture in person before he so quickly degraded it to "looks like a set of Ikea shelves"? Should we not teach children to try to understand something instead of so peremptorily dismissing and putting it down? What Mr. Seven also does not seem to understand is that so many sculptors spend endless hours and money to create a sculpture that was never intended to be used for climbing, skateboarding, biking, swinging from, leaving greasy sandwiches and spilt Coca-Cola upon, etc. (I have seen it all). These "interactions" immediately or eventually destroy the artwork, a loss both for the artist and the viewers coming to see it.
Would Mr. Seven equally endorse a child skateboarding in a flower garden, whacking a decorated Christmas tree, walking through another child's sandcastle, as ways to interact with these creations? Would he encourage a child with a pen to "recontextualize" a Monet painting? Would he accept a child with computer access to his article to randomly "edit" it before publishing? As for Mr. Seven's "secret work fantasy -- ‘to climb all over some pieces," I suggest he visits a playground.
I also disagree with his calling museums and art venues "established grown-up zones." I see them as places where people of all ages can enjoy and be inspired by art. All art venues, including SculptureNow, welcome children to their exhibitions, and many art venues, including SculptureNow, have specific programs that allow children to physically interact with the art under supervision, which protects both the children and the artwork.
As adults we need to teach children respect for the creations of other people, and how to interact with art in ways that are enriching, not destructive.
The writer is executive director of SculptureNow.
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