Kids can create virtual paintings with a new giant touchscreen in our children’s area as they play with the various brush strokes, colors and effects of the BRUSHster program.
The BRUSHster station is part of a recent remodel in the museum’s Discovery Center, which added fresh paint and several more art stations. The space bears a new name, the Doran & Nancy Boston Discovery Center, in honor of the local couple who made a significant donation to the museum.
The updates were much needed in the space dedicated to creative play and learning for children, Curator of Education Michelle Miller said. Projects kids can make there incorporate art education and connect with art in the galleries.
“So we’re kind of sneaking in a bit of knowledge, but also it’s very beneficial for kids to play with art and to play creatively. It helps with their brain development and all that stuff,” Michelle said. “So having a space like that for the community is really our goal: fun and educational.”
The remodel was completed in February, and the BRUSHster in April became the latest addition to the Discovery Center. Michelle expects it to be very popular, and she knows of only one other museum with the same program in its children’s area.
Other new stations include the Sensory Play area, a corner where kids as young as babies can learn fine motor skills, problem-solving skills and creative thinking, Miller said. The station includes toys that involve the senses as well as a wall panel full of activities like zippers, door latches and gears. A sign tells visitors that in this corner, they can even do the one thing you’re not supposed to do in an art museum: touch the art.
Kids can dress up in costumes at the Dramatic Play area complete with a curtained stage. They can explore the art of storytelling as well at the Shadow Puppet Theater, which was hand-made by an artist in Ukraine.
There’s a new painting station, a drawing table and a LEGO table. New LEGO kits with themes like dinosaurs or castles are available. Plastic blocks in various shapes and letters glow on the new light table, which teaches kids how light and color affect each other.
Longstanding Discovery Center staples like the magnetic wall and a crayon rubbing table are freshened with new supplies and features.
Even the décor incorporates elements of art education: color, shape, line, texture and value, Michelle said. Some walls are painted in solid bright colors.
“I wanted you to feel like you were standing in a giant color wheel. So when you look at it, it goes in order of the rainbow, or the color wheel,” she said.
Some walls patterns emphasize line or shape and value. Artist Jim Kopp of Casper created a mural that children filled in with color during the grand reopening celebration of the remodel.
The entry into the Discovery Center still features the original little door for children. Rainbow colors surround the interior doorway in an optical illusion pattern inspired by the “Alice in Wonderland” door that gets smaller and smaller.
A fundraising effort called Little Door Donors raised over $10,000 for the remodel. The Cultural Trust Fund matched $9,100 for the BRUSHster station. Several local businesses sponsored the remodel, and volunteers helped build, paint and clean.
Miller hopes to continue to enhance the center. Her plans include short scripts for kids to perform in the theater area, more sensory toys and drawing projects for the light table.
Besides the children’s area, the museum’s education department also offers classes for all ages. You can find out more about the Doran & Nancy Boston Discovery Center and register for classes at thenic.org under the “Learn” tab.