Mass MOCA's Kidspace features expanded programs, resource Web site

Tuesday April 24, 2012


Things are blossoming at Kidspace. This past week, the youth- and family-friendly contemporary art gallery and art education center based at Mass MoCA in North Adams held a "Spring Break Art Detox Workshop."

It featured three days of two-hour sustainable art programming for an affordable $12 per session or $30 for three sessions. About a dozen students attended each day.

Students decorated reusable bags, made birdhouses out of recycled materials, and learned about the guerilla gardening art of making "seed bombs."

Lindsey Hubbard, a sixth-grader on vacation from C.T. Plunkett Elementary School in Adams, normally doesn't like to get her hands dirty, but she did in the name of seed bombs -- a mixture of seeds, soil, water and clay.

Roll the ingredients into balls and toss them into your backyard, abandoned lot or other open space. The idea is that they will "explode" into a bounty of vegetables, flowers and plants in an otherwise barren place.

Nicole St. Germain, a sixth-grader from St. Stanislaus Kostka School in Adams, said she became smitten with the current installation in Kidspace, "Under the Sea," where old parking cones become sharks and pipe cleaners become an ocean of critters and coral-like sculptures.

"It was really fun to come here. I was inspired to buy pipe cleaners and make my own things," said St. Germain, who made neon pipe-cleaner bracelets for the group.

"We wanted to try something new this year, so we went with an Earth Day theme," said Rachel Heisler, education coordinator for Mass MoCA.

"It's also part of our upcoming initiatives and changes," said Kidspace intern Amanda Tobin.

Beginning in June, Kidspace will embrace a new model of operation. The program, run collaboratively by Mass MoCA, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (the Clark), and the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), will offer more programming at all three museums, a new professional development institute for teachers, and a new website designed to share resources, with a focus of reaching students and educators in preschool through Grade 8.

For the past 12 years, Kidspace has worked to bring art education and exhibitions to six partnering schools in Northern Berkshire County.

Laura Thompson, director of exhibitions and education at Kidspace, said that each year, Kidspace programs will present a unifying theme for programs offered by each of the three museums. The theme will be developed by an advisory committee of local teachers, along with museum staff.

The existing Kidspace gallery will continue to organize exhibitions for its partner schools and the public; other interested schools will be welcome to participate as well.

In addition, complementary programming, from exhibits to performances to art-making workshops, will take place at the Clark and WCMA.

In terms of programs for educators, the first Teachers Institute is scheduled for the week of July 30 and features keynote speaker Jessica Hoffman Davis, cognitive developmental psychologist and founder of the Arts in Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. This year's theme is "curiosity."

Clark's Director Michael Conforti said he believes the new Kidspace initiative will serve as a national model for innovative arts

WCMA interim Director Katy Kline added, "With recent cuts in school resources, many area schools have turned to the arts community to provide deeper arts programming for students. The new Kidspace responds to these new needs and also provides opportunities for teacher development focused on the arts."


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