If you spend time in the Wonder Room, chances are you will meet Alvin. Alvin White has a very important job at CMA. He gets paid to play.
It may seem odd that we pay someone to play. But many adults, and even some children, are not sure how to play at an art museum. Alvin shows them how.
He shows young couples how to make a silly face with common household objects.
He leads a family in a pirate adventure through the Fort.
He brings multiple families together to create a story out of clay.
What is his greatest challenge? To engage adults in this hands-on, family gallery. When an adult professes a lack of creativity, Alvin steps in to demonstrate the simple joy of making a newfangled animal or manipulating clay.
“It’s always interesting to see kids and adults think with their hands.” Alvin told me recently. “When they get a chance to make something, or do something with their hands, it seems to get their brain working too.”
Alvin takes his playful job seriously. He has a special knack for leading visitors of all ages on a personal journey of looking, thinking, wondering, imagining, experimenting and playing. An artist himself, Alvin encourages visitors to look closely at the great works of art throughout the gallery.
Although he enjoys spending time with visitors in the space, his biggest concern is what they take away from their experience. “I hope that families leave the Wonder Room with an expanded idea of what creativity is….and what art can be. I show them that artists try to push the definition of what creativity is. But it isn’t just about art. Even if a visitor is an engineer, I want them to think, ‘oh a computer doesn’t have to be this…it can be that.’”
Alvin began working on the Wonder Room project as a volunteer, assisting artist Sean Foley with the fabrication and installation of Fort. Since then he has spent countless hours helping to make this unique gallery a success. He makes repairs, cleans up, and cares for hands-on activities throughout the museum. Although it may appear easy, his job would challenge most of us. Playing is hard work, after all.
I asked Alvin how he would describe his role in the Wonder Room. “The space is a vehicle for creativity.” he said, “I am just the person putting the pedal on the gas.”
Over the past 18 months, in preparation for opening CMA’s new Center for Creativity (on Jan. 1, 2011), the entire education staff immersed ourselves in research on creativity, particularly what is necessary to cultivate creativity. Musings from the Center for Creativity is an opportunity for us to share our thoughts on this topic. Please share your views and resources with us, as well.
Art Speaks. Join the Conversation.
Merilee Mostov, Manager for Creative Initiatives