New and just for kids

San Diego's New Children's Museum makes art fun.

By , Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

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    Artistic fun: A girl climbs on a colorful wall at the New Children's Museum in San Diego.
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    Other children paint an old Volkswagon Beetle in many colors.
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When you walk across the pink bridge, you can see yourself reflected in the mirror on the left side of the bridge (that is, if you're under 4 feet tall). That's your first indication that this is a bridge to fun!

It's the entrance to the New Children's Museum in San Diego, which opened this spring.

Once you're inside, you'll find that 19 artists have created special installation exhibits just for you to experience! Six of the artists are from Mexico. (San Diego is only a few miles from the border.)

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In fact, the artist who created the bridge, Maurcy Gomulicki, lives and works in both Mexico City and in his homeland, Poland.

The first things you may notice when you step into the museum are other kids scooting around on "Legways," artist Roman de Salvo's answer to the adult Segways – except Legways move with kid power.

And look – on one wall, attached high above your head are vacuum cleaners which emit harmonica sounds when you pass by and they sense your motion.

This playful art piece was designed by French composer Céleste Boursier-Mougenot.

You'll see a textile forest created by artist Tanya Aquiniga. This is a forest made of cloth, from mushrooms to trees to fallen leaves. It's especially enjoyable for very young children.

If you want to paint or make things from clay, you'll find several spots to do so. For example, an old Volkswagen beetle waits on the lower patio for you to slosh paint on it. Imagine painting a car any color you want to!

Then there is a clay station that enables you to create your own pottery – bowls, butterflies, airplanes, whatever you can think up.

You'll even find a wall-size chalkboard, where you can draw and write to your heart's content.

Upstairs, you'll find a colorfully painted climbing wall. You'll also discover a room full of mattresses and tire-shaped pillows! You can jump and jump and have pillow fights – a great way to release energy.

Also upstairs is a very special house, designed and built by artist and sculptor, Ernest Silva.

It is a 12-by-20-foot house with a tin roof, painted in bright colors of red, blue, yellow, and orange.

Thanks to a special pump, rain falls on the house and it makes a wonderful sound on the tin roof.

Children can experience the cozy experience of being inside the Rain House, while they play or listen to stories told in English and in Spanish.

On the inside and outside of the house are painted pictures of birds, along with colorful cross-hatching, and words, such as: "a bird in Tijuana [Mexico] singing to a ... bird in San Diego." (San Diego and Tijuana are right across the border from each other.)

This house is just for kids: You can enter the Rain House through a keyhole-shaped opening that's too small for your parents to squeeze through.

Right now, kids are really enjoying exploring the New Children's Museum. But when they come back in a few months, they may be able to do even more, Future plans include writing and art workshops in the Rain House, and the exchange of artwork and poems with children in Tijuana.

This museum emphasizes the visual arts. While many children's museums focus on science and other educational exhibits, the New Children's Museum has invited artists to create exhibits in which kids can participate and be part of the artwork.

The concept is based on artist Allan Kaprow's ideas about art connecting with life. The idea of his "Happenings" in the 1960s was that art and life are fluid and connected. Each year new artists will be invited to create other exhibits that will be springboards for youngsters' imagination.

The first Children's Museum in San Diego was opened in 1983 in donated space in a shopping mall. In 1994, it moved to a 50-year-old warehouse downtown. The museum closed in that location in 2002 because of redevelopment. At that point it became a "museum without walls."

Now has its own "green" building, designed by architect Rob Quigley. It's the largest green building in San Diego, with natural ventilation and light.

The New Children's Museum takes advantage of San Diego's mild weather by using indoor and outdoor space. For example, the clay studio is on the front open-air patio area of the building.

Every second Sunday, the museum is free.

The museum's multinational approach makes a connection with children and people across the border in Mexico and in other countries. In fact, it supports the idea that art has no borders.

For more information, contact the New Children's Museum, 200 West Island Ave., San Diego, CA 92101; (619) 233-8792; or visit the website at www.thinkplaycreate.org.

All about the New Children's Museum

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