Art Lab: Process is an interactive space where families and other museum visitors can discover different ways of making art and engage in their own creative process. As an educator in the space, I consider how I can help visitors maximize their time in the lab and in the museum. In order to facilitate more meaningful experiences, I try to find connections between their personal interests and an area of our collection or a specific artwork. I often make connections between the activities they explore in the lab and what they have already seen or may see in the galleries. I also offer various ideas for how to continue their exploration of an artist, or ways to build upon their experiences after their visit to MoMA.
I’ve noticed that when working with families who come to the Art Lab regularly, there is an opportunity to build an ongoing relationship, which changes how I interact with them. If they return to see a favorite work of art, I might ask them to think about it in a different way, or encourage them to use an aspect of the artist’s creative process when making art that day. There are also opportunities to revisit the same activities in the lab, but with a different approach, offering new challenges through prompts, unique materials, or different techniques.
Recently, a young visitor who comes to the lab often began working at one of her favorite stations, an interactive screen featuring videos of different artists describing their creative process. Rather than listening to the same artist each time, I encourage her to explore a new artist with every visit. I then ask her about what kinds of materials or tools the artist chose and how they might differ from the other artists she has learned about. I use similar questions to spark her own art making, and encourage her to reflect on her own creative process.
In another instance, a child who returned for a visit was so inspired by the use of recycled materials at our assemblage table that he started to bring in a few of his own collected materials. This has provided a great opportunity to ask him about his thought process when saving certain items, and to encourage him to continue thinking about art making outside of his time in the lab.
Through these continued relationships, I am able to build upon previous conversations while helping each experience feel as productive and inspiring as the one before. When working with new visitors, I try to create similar opportunities for dialogue, which can lead to further thinking about art and artists in new ways.
One of my favorite parts of working in the lab is that these relationships and experiences with visitors develop simultaneously. It’s especially satisfying when new and familiar visitors share their ideas with one another, often changing the art-making process for each other in the process. I like to ask open-ended questions to a group in the midst of creating and watch how their responses inspire others to think differently about their materials or their designs. This cultivates a truly collaborative spirit, which is welcoming to new and regular visitors alike.
It’s been great to observe the many ways in which visitors interact with the lab, and I’m constantly reconsidering my role in shaping their visit. Regardless of how long or how often a family may be able to spend time in the Art Lab, I hope to offer each visitor the feeling that that their ideas are welcome, and provide them with a comfortable space for experimentation and expression.