Why not try is a new mantra I’ve been trying to wrap my head around. I have a CMA visitor to thank for this statement. It was in the form of a tape creation at one of our in-gallery activities in the Center for Creativity, and now hangs at my desk as a daily reminder. I arrived one morning to see it hung among the dozens of other tape creations made over a busy weekend. It caught my attention immediately. I think I may have laughed at the pure simplicity and boldness of it. I said it aloud. “Why NOT try?”
We try lots of new things here at CMA. We try new materials. We ask visitors what they’ve tried during their visit to CMA that day on our Join the Conversation board. We try to make visitors feel welcome, comfortable, and give them permission to create, experiment, and have fun. As an employee who spends a lot of time in the galleries, I am particularly conscious of each of our visitor’s experience. I want visitors, of all ages, to feel that CMA is a place they can explore and try new things.
Sometimes I hear visitors get discouraged at an in-gallery activity, feeling they might fail. They’re hesitant to try something that is new and unfamiliar. Gavin and his grandmother came to CMA on a quiet weekday morning to explore the newly re-imagined Wonder Room. They joined me at an area where visitors are encouraged to draw a tree. The grandmother immediately began to try the white pencil on the black paper, making various branches. Gavin was hesitant. “I’m not a good artist,” he stated. “What makes you say that?” I asked him. “I can’t draw.” he replied. Grandmother and I didn’t take that as a good reason. We were encouraging and persistent. “Just try and experiment with the white pencil on the black paper,” we suggested. Grandmother and I continued to draw and doodle. Gavin slowly made a mark on his paper. Over the next 15 minutes Gavin tried numerous tree drawings, making different markings, sharing his wonderings out loud with his Grandmother and me; “This kind of looks like a shoe when it’s upside down…” Drawing and talking together became an enjoyable activity for all three of us.
I want all visitors to draw a tree, or put a puzzle together, or make a design using colored tape and note cards, or build something using only white LEGOs. Trying something creative can be scary, or overwhelming, or confusing, but that’s okay. There is no failure in trying. Something wonderful could happen while you’re trying it out! The important question is, why NOT try?
By Kelsey Cyr, Visitor Engagement Assistant