“Hi, what are you doing?” I whispered as I crouched, on hands and knees, under the treehouse.
“We’re imagining there’s a troll living up there in the treehouse,” Marina shared. “We’re the elves.”
“Elves are nice,” added Pilar.
I smiled and joined in the creative play with Lorena and her two daughters Marina and Pilar. Together we wondered about the ambiguous glass sculpture. Is it a girl or boy? Is it human or elfin? We pretended to be mermaids climbing rocks; we stacked up piles of bamboo stones. And then, Lorena and the girls crawled away to spy on the “mean troll” living in the tree house.
The Wonder Room is back in business.
After five hectic weeks of demolition and transformation, the Wonder Room is open again. Chock-full of birds and bats, trees and mysterious creatures, this experimental gallery now flaunts a woodland theme with all new hands-on activities and an eclectic selection of art. Curious visitors of all ages braved cold and ice to come out and play with us last month during the Wonder Room preview weeks.
Lorena and her two daughters played for hours.
Daniel, Susan, and Shirley also came to check it out. When I met this trio, they were huddled around the tree stumps, contemplating their progress. Their goal: to build an arched branch — one that would span both tree stumps — using the large cardboard pieces. Susan played the role of a human support beam while Daniel experimented with different pieces to make the structure sturdy. Shirley offered advice from the sidelines.
As always, I relished chatting and collaborating with these and other CMA families. As always, I observed and documented some of their conversations and actions. As always, I looked for evidence of collaboration and creativity in action.
Situated in the very heart of the Center for Creativity, the Wonder Room is intentionally designed to foster and provoke creativity. But creativity, we know, is like a gargantuan, multi-tiered cake; we don’t expect to take in the entire confection at one sitting. Instead we pick away at the layers at different times in different ways. The Wonder Room takes a big bite out of the tiers of curiosity, imagination, experimentation, and storytelling.
To set the stage for these creative experiences, we made countless intentional design decisions to promote creative play – play inspired by unexpected discovery and exploration, play that allows for experimentation and mess-making, and play that is prompted by sharing stories, make-believe, and imaginings.
What I first noticed about Lorena and Daniel’s families is their intuitive and urgent drive to play – to invent, to explore, to experiment, to pretend. From across the room I first watched as Lorena and her family crawled into the dark crevices under the treehouse, discovered the sleeping sculpture, and took off on their adventure. From afar I watched Daniel, his mother and girlfriend, make bird nests, draw trees, and then, set out to build the marvelous arched tree.
For good reason, there are very few signs in the gallery currently. I’ve learned that people don’t seem to notice signs in museums, so I spent the first few weeks watching and listening to determine what kind of signs visitors of all ages would need to encourage their creative play — to give them permission to play.
I admit that even I am surprised at how much imagining, experimenting, and storytelling has erupted spontaneously here already. And for me, that is the icing on the cake.