Denver, CO – February 28, 2022 – Co-curated with children from six months old to age eight from across the Front Range, the upcoming exhibition Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind, reveals how children think about art. Designed to engage both children and adults, the exhibition will be on view from March 11 to August 7 at the Clyfford Still Museum (CSM).
The Museum’s first four galleries chart the artistic journey of Clyfford Still in a chronological narrative, and includes artworks selected with families and children in mind and hung lower on the walls to account for the height of young visitors. The remaining galleries feature Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind, the first show CSM curated in collaboration with the community.
Using existing research about what kinds of art children like at different points in their development, co-curators Bailey H. Placzek and Nicole Cromartie organized the exhibition into five gallery themes: high contrast, scale, pattern, the world around us, and color. Then, they asked local children to select and arrange their favorite artworks, share their perspectives for the gallery and audio content, and help to design interactive activities.
“Our vision for Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind used what we knew about visual development and aesthetic preferences in young children as an organizational framework and a jumping-off point,” said Cromartie. “We have all of these great studies that give us a general sense of the kinds of artwork that children are interested in, but we wanted to understand the preferences of the children in our community here across the Front Range. Rather than just organizing an exhibition based on the research, we had a lot of questions for the kids in our community, and they had the answers.”
While many examples of museums creating exhibitions for children exist, Cromartie and Placzek had a challenging time finding any examples of museums working with very young children and pre-verbal children to develop exhibitions. “This show is groundbreaking in our field,” said Placzek. “We realized that including children in all aspects of exhibition development including design, interpretation, programming, marketing, and evaluation, would make for a richer exhibition and learning experience for everyone involved in the project.”
The Young Mind exhibition includes various interactive and interpretive elements, including a behind-the-scenes video with clips of the infant co-curators selecting paintings for the exhibition by staring, pointing, vocalizing, and grabbing reproductions of their favorite Still paintings. Pre-kindergarten students helped create an interactive art projection activity in one of the galleries and inspired an installation of prisms on one of the outdoor terraces. Young co-curators also assisted in developing audio and video experiences in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language. Second-grade students from two schools selected and arranged archival images of automobiles and airplanes from the Clyfford Still Archives for “The World Around Us” gallery.
CSM staff walked through the galleries with some of the young co-curators to see how they interacted with the space. The Museum used the feedback to make its building more welcoming and add comfortable areas with floor cushions for people of all ages to relax and enjoy the art from different perspectives. Young co-curators also shaped the exhibition’s wall text, which will be bilingual in English and Spanish, more accessible, and encourage visitor interaction and conversation.
“If the Museum is a welcoming environment for children and their grown-ups, it will be a more welcoming place for everyone,” said Placzek. “When we first started talking about this exhibition, we were very aware of the fact that this couldn’t just be an exhibition for very young kids. So many of the exhibition’s foundational themes are multi-disciplinary and will interest people of all ages.”
Cromartie and Placzek said that the exhibition’s nearly three-year development process during pandemic times renewed their appreciation for the joy that the simple act of looking at art instills in their everyday lives. They hope visitors will feel the same way.
Visit https://clyffordstillmuseum.org/youngminds for more information. The Museum will offer a variety of programs and events during the run of the exhibition that are free or free with admission. Visit https://clyffordstillmuseum.org/events for a schedule of upcoming programs.
Young Mind school partner co-curators include: infants, Colorado State University’s Early Childhood Center, Fort Collins, CO; infants–toddlers, Catholic Charities Mariposa Child Care Center, Denver, CO; pre-K students, Head Start at the Dagny School, Lafayette, CO; pre-K students, Boulder Journey School, Boulder, CO; kindergarten–second grade students, Center for Talent Development, Denver, CO; first–second grade students, Gust Elementary School, Denver, CO; first–third grade students, Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment, Denver, CO; and Pre-K–third grade students, Rocky Mountain Deaf School, Denver, CO. In addition to area schools, thought partners for this exhibition include: Michael Barla, Olivia Coyne, Nathaniel Cradle, Kathy Danko-McGhee, Jacie Engel, Erin Ford, Enola Garland, Karl Horeis, Victoria Martinez, Katherine Millichamp, Akane Ogren Orlandella, Jessica Plate, Alison Vaccaro, Kristen Zimbelman, the School of Education & Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver, the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children, and the Colorado Head Start Association. Bailey H. Placzek is the Museum’s associate curator & catalogue raisonné research and project manager and Nicole Cromartie is CSM’s director of education & programs.
About the Clyfford Still Museum
Designed by Allied Works Architecture to display the revolutionary art of one of the 20th century’s greatest artists, the Clyfford Still Museum opened in November 2011 in Denver’s Golden Triangle Creative District. Considered one of the most important and mysterious painters of the 20th century, Clyfford Still (1904-1980) was among the first generation of abstract expressionist artists who developed a new and powerful approach to painting in the years during and immediately after World War II. The Museum’s collection represents more than 93% of the artist’s lifetime output. As the steward of Still’s art and legacy, the Museum’s mission is to preserve, exhibit, study, and foster engagement with its unique collections; generate outstanding exhibitions, scholarly research, educational and other cross-disciplinary programs that broaden the definition of a “single-artist” museum; and be a gathering place for the exploration of innovation and individual artistic endeavor. Connect with the Clyfford Still Museum on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or at clyffordstillmuseum.org.
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