Reimagining Art and Play
The New Children’s Museum Opens After Year of Closure
To the delight of children all over San Diego, including its 7,000-member families, The New Children’s Museum will reopen this month after being closed for more than a year (public opening on May 21 with early access for members beginning May 7). Throughout its prolonged closure, the Museum focused its efforts on the needs of the community, providing virtual art experiences online and delivering art supplies and activities to tens of thousands of children through its school visit and community partner programs.
The Museum also continued its ongoing work with contemporary artists – the core of its mission and what makes it different from other children’s museums. Two colorful murals were completed during the closure, in addition to collaboration on several new installations that will open later this year.
The 28’ x 13’ mural Energized by Regan Russell (October, 2020) covers the large windows of the Museum’s makerspace, the Rosso Family Foundation Innovators LAB, which faces Front Street and is visible from the outside as well as inside the Museum. Russell explored color, light and visual communication for the mural, which adapts the movement of the sun to create a vibrant color dance around the Museum. (photo of energized and Regan)
A second mural, Brian and the Bugs by Katie Ruiz (March, 2021) transformed over 1,000 square feet of the Museum’s walls into a visual story of connectedness with colorful flowers and insects. The mural speaks to returning visitors with a gesture of welcome and offers hope for new growth. (photo of brian and bugs and Katie)
Taking over the Museum’s lower level this summer will be the immersive El Más Alla by artist Panca. The name El Más Alla translates to “a world beyond this one,” which the Museum believes will offer hope and healing after the challenges of the past year. Giant climbable sculptures surrounded by floor-to-ceiling murals will provide the opportunity for exploration and discovery. A 40-foot tube slide will transport visitors into the installation from the main level, along with a smaller slide for younger children. Museum visitors can view the artist and fabrication team in the installation’s final construction stages throughout May and June. (Photo of slide, mural art, Panca)
Also in progress is a project by artist Wes Bruce, who collaborated with the Museum on The Wonder Sound, a multi-level installation with rooms, tunnels and bridges that immerses children in unique illustrations, stories and poetry. For the installation’s five-year anniversary, Bruce returns to complete The Wonder Sound Garden, an open-air space that extends the current installation onto the Museum’s upper patio. The Garden will pay tribute to the natural cycles of San Diego, from small earthen dome structures to xeriscapes of native succulents, and serve as a healing space for visitors to gather together again as a community.
Other artists with pending work at the Museum include David Israel Reynoso (immersive theatrical experience), Andrea Chung (STEAM programming) and Risa Puno (labyrinth structure for the Museum Park). Through the Museum’s new monthly virtual Artist Talk series, guests can hear directly from the artists about their upcoming work. See www.thinkplaycreate.org for information about upcoming talks and featured artists.
The New Children’s Museum is located at 200 West Island Avenue, between Front and Union, and will be reopening in phases, starting with its Main Level and new “outdoor experience” on Island Avenue and the adjacent park. With the health and safety of its guests and members a top priority, the Museum has instituted health and safety protocols including capacity limits, mask requirements and social distancing guidelines. Reservations prior to visiting are required and available on their website at www.thinkplaycreate.org/visit.
The Museum is actively fundraising to support these initiatives, with initial lead funding from The Dow Divas Investment Club, Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Museum’s Board of Directors.
“As San Diego emerges from the pandemic, families need places to visit together to rebuild confidence, openness and trust. The interactive contemporary art installations at our museum provide the kind of experiences that will help in this process,” Reed Vickerman, Interim Executive Director shared with GB Magazine. “We believe that children need to be able to get out and play after being inside! We are happy to be able to reopen and welcome everyone back.”