Polke Pop-Up Activity Space
MoMA visitors participate in a Polke Pop-Up Activity

MoMA visitors participate in a Polke Pop-Up Activity

If you happen to visit the exhibition Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010 on Tuesday afternoons you will notice something different: the sight of Museum visitors making art inspired by Sigmar Polke’s processes, in close proximity to his works of art. This shift toward more hands-on learning experiences is not something that happened overnight. About two years ago, the Museum formed a committee charged with experimenting with new forms of social and participatory engagement strategies, both on- and off-site. We listened to feedback from people in the galleries and from participants in MoMA Art Lab and MoMA Studio programs, and what emerged was a clear need and desire for learning and activity spaces that are located closer to the galleries. Since that time we’ve piloted a couple of smaller experiments, but the Polke pop-up is the first true test of embedding “maker spaces” within the galleries.

For this particular program our goals are to:

• Let visitors explore Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010 in a more meaningful and personal way
• Create a welcoming, accessible, facilitated environment with the aim of transforming visitors from observers into active participants, by offering activities that foster a deeper engagement with Polke’s process
• Encourage participants to look closely, think, question, discuss, and make connections as they create
• Demonstrate that there are many ways to interpret art
• Provide an experimental “laboratory” space that is both flexible and responsive to new ideas and creative discoveries
• Allow for discussion and exchange, and access to information, materials, and digital resources that may otherwise be new or unexpected for visitors in the museum context.

MoMA visitors participate in a Polke Pop-Up Activity

MoMA visitors participate in a Polke Pop-Up Activity

Working with the curators, a few of us in MoMA’s Department of Education developed three activities designed to help visitors understand Polke’s process:

• 1+1 = 3 Seeing Things As They Aren’t is an activity in which visitors used a variety of materials and textures to create a work to surprise and challenge the viewing, playing with the effects of layering.
• From Raster to Pixel invites visitors to create their own Polke-inspired raster picture using halftone images and other materials and tools, such as light boxes and tracing paper.
• Polke’s a Palm Tree: What Are You? encourages participants to create a symbolic portrait of themselves.

MoMA visitors participate in a Polke Pop-Up Activity

MoMA visitors participate in a Polke Pop-Up Activity

One of the challenges we experienced while creating this space was thinking of activities that would allow participants to fully engage with Polke’s processes while being mindful of the works of art on view nearby. We also were aware that participants might want to take their works home but that due to budgetary and logistical constraints this wouldn’t work for every activity. We decided to photograph or scan participants’ ephemeral creations, which are then published via social media (Instagram, Twitter, and a Tagboard) using the hashtag #MyPolke.

To date, the Polke Pop-Up Activity space has been a tremendous success in terms of achieving its goals:

85% of the participants also visited the exhibition and felt that the interactive experience really enhanced their exploration of the exhibition. One participant explained, “It deepened my relationship to the material, and gave me a kind of ownership of it and the experience…. I think that programs such as this accelerate a person’s attachment to the space (because the museum gave them a one-on-one art experience, and the visitor responded creatively, thereby sketching the basis for a relationship: reciprocity).”

MoMA visitors participate in a Polke Pop-Up Activity

MoMA visitors participate in a Polke Pop-Up Activity

95% of participants said that their experience in the Polke Pop-Up Activities has had a positive impact on the rest of their visit to MoMA. One participant commented, “The experience made my day and week. I was able to free my mind of the rush and repetition that so consistently tends to take over. At a time when I felt as if my mind couldn’t handle any more information the experience that I had brought about an unexpected sense of clarity and positively. I am very thankful.”

The Polke Pop-Up Activities are offered every Tuesday afternoon from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. through July 22, so if you haven’t stopped by yet there’s still time!



I really enjoyed this post and am think it’s exciting that MoMA is experimenting with programmatic strategies for engaging visitors.
I’m the Community Programs Coordinator at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH), and part of my role is to design art activities that thematically relate to current exhibitions. I have a few questions about your activities: are they intergenerational? Do the art activities require facilitation or are they drop-in, and self sustaining? Do they happen everyday the exhibit is up, or do you plan activities to occur on one (event) day?

Thank you so much for taking the time to read, and respond!

Hi Nora,

Thank you for your interest in the Polke pop-up! The activities were intergenerational. Throughout the run of this pop-up we had everyone from toddlers to visitors 80+ participate and there were a lot of interactions between the participants. These particular activities were facilitated mostly due to the location of the pop-up and the extensive materials but also because we felt it would provide participants with a richer experience to have people who could help them make connections to Polke and what they were creating. We always had 2 facilitators, 1 lead educator and myself (visitor researcher) in the space. The activities were drop in with no sign up required. Visitors could stay as little or as long as they wanted. We only had so many spaces available at the table but visitors were self-regulating for the most part and waited for space to open up. Activities happened every Tues. from 1-5pm for 12 weeks. I hope this answers your questions. I’ll send you an email and we can connect if you have any more questions. I’m happy to share our summary of visitor response to this pop-up.

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