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Art for Little (and Big) Hands

September 17, 2000

It's fun, it's free and it's here. "Made in California: NOW" is an ingenious effort by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to make art more accessible to young people while keeping their parents interested.

The interactive exhibition consists of 11 original installations by California artists designed specifically to engage the entire family in a new type of art experience. A 10-year-old, for example, can see himself interacting on a 15-foot video screen with computer-generated imagery and sounds that are set in motion by swaying back and forth on a swing. Or kids can discover sources of artistic inspiration by climbing on a mound and opening a door to discover a sunflower that resembles those painted by Vincent van Gogh.

The very hands-on "Made in California: NOW," which is installed in 10,000 square feet of open galleries at LACMA West, the former May Co. building, challenges the traditional museum approach of presenting art under the warnings, "Don't touch, don't talk and don't go too close to the art object."

The show is the inaugural exhibition of LACMALab, an experimental research and development unit within the museum that aims to test innovative ways for the public to interact with art.

Robert L. Sain, the former director of the San Diego Children's Museum, is in charge of the project. He commissioned 11 California artists to create art for a child-friendly environment. Studies published by the UCLA graduate school of education show that youngsters retain information longer when art is experienced interactively with their families.

Given the dismal state of art education in the state's public schools, "Made in California: NOW" not only can change the way children think about art, it can fill a huge void.

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