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clyfford still | museum
A girl points excitedly at a painting with an orange and red painting behind her
An exhibition co-curator in the galleries, photo by James Dewhirst

Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind

MAR 11–AUG 7, 2022

To launch a new initiative welcoming children into the Clyfford Still Museum, CSM organized its galleries for the first time to engage early learners and their families in a groundbreaking exhibition for all ages. The first four galleries charted the artistic journey of Clyfford Still in chronological order. Artworks were selected with families and children in mind and hung lower on the walls to account for the height of young visitors. The remaining galleries featured Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind, the first show the Museum curated in collaboration with the community.

Co-curated with children across the Front Range from six months old to age eight, Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind revealed how children think about art. 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. The themes correspond with key developmental stages researchers have identified based on children’s preferences. Using research about visual development and aesthetic preferences in young children as an organizational framework, Placzek and Cromartie wanted to understand the preferences of the children in our community. Local children selected and arranged their favorite artworks; shared their perspectives for the gallery and audio content; and helped design interactive activities.

Though primarily created by and for early learners, the exhibition included various levels of engagement so visitors of all ages could explore abstraction, the progression of visual function and preference, and the intrinsic power behind Clyfford Still’s art. Breaking down the misconception that abstraction is too complex for young children, Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind presented current, and will generate new research illuminating the rich benefits of art museum experiences in young children’s lives.

Young Mind Resources

The Young Mind exhibition fundamentally changed the way the Clyfford Still Museum operates, from the early conceptualization stages (collaborative development and planning) to the installation phase (hanging height of objects) and beyond (marketing strategies and programming). CSM will incorporate many of these changes into future planning to make the Museum more accessible. We will continue to update this page with resources and ongoing research about Young Mind.

Articles and Research

Audio and American Sign Language Experiences

Access perspectives of our young co-curators in an English / Spanish audio experience (Soundcloud) or an American Sign Language video (Vimeo).

Learn More About the Exhibition

Watch a Tour of the Exhibition

Exhibition Interactive Features

Students at exhibition partner Boulder Journey School (BJS) inspired two of the exhibition’s interactive features, including the installation of prisms on the west terrace to refract light across the space. BJS preschool students also helped create an interactive art projection activity in the pattern gallery. Play and experiment with materials on light boxes; make Still-inspired projections; interact with shadows; and immerse yourself in your creations on the gallery wall.

In the High Contrast gallery, watch and listen to a behind-the-scenes video with clips of infant co-curators selecting paintings by staring, pointing, vocalizing, and grabbing reproductions of their favorite Clyfford Still paintings. Enjoy a new installation of mirrors on the east terrace.

At the front desk, borrow the Tactile Book, a sensory object to keep hands engaged and simulate the feeling of touching bare and painted canvas while you look at Clyfford Still’s paintings.

Access perspectives of our young co-curators in an English / Spanish audio experience or an American Sign Language video. Look for QR codes in three of the galleries to access the recordings on your smart device. Please listen at a volume that is respectful to other guests, use your own headphones, or grab some at the front desk.

Thank you to Denver Office of Sign Language Services (DOSLS) for their sponsorship of Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind. We greatly appreciate DOSLS’ donation of interpreting services and working with us to engage the deaf community’s involvement in the ASL experience of this exhibition.

Denver Office of Sign Language Services logo

Thank you to our partners who helped make this exhibition possible.

School partner co-curators: infants, Colorado State University’s Early Childhood Center, Fort Collins, CO; infants–toddlers, Catholic Charities Mariposa Child Care Center, Denver; 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; first–second grade students, Gust Elementary School, Denver; and first–third grade students, Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment, Denver; and pre-K–third grade students, Rocky Mountain Deaf School, Denver.

Students in front of a large abstract blue painting
Students from the Center for Talent Development

Thought partners: Michael Barla, Olivia Coyne, Nathaniel Cradle, Kathy Danko-McGhee, Jacie Engel, Erin Ford, Enola Garland, Tiffany Hoglind, 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.


CU Denver logo

Center for Talent Development logo

Woman looks at a laptop with children and a teacher on the screen and she writes something in a notebook
Nicole Cromartie, Director of Education and Programs and co-curator of the exhibition works with children at a partner school

Do you want to be an Art Protector?
¿Estás listo para ser un Protector de Arte?

Learn how you and your adults can help us keep our art safe.

Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind exhibition is located in galleries 5-9. 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. Explore collection highlights in galleries 1-4.