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
- American Alliance of Museums – Alliance Blog: Wait, What? Toddlers in an Art Museum?
- Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind Summative Evaluation Report – Trainer Evaluation (downloadable PDF) – The Museum contracted Trainer Evaluation, a Denver-based, nationally recognized museum evaluation company, to help assess if we met our ambitious goals for the exhibition. Trainer Evaluation conducted qualitative interviews and, with our volunteers’ help, collected 346 surveys from visitors that captured their feedback about changes instituted for the exhibition.
- Exhibition: Collaborative Curation with Young Children at the Clyfford Still Museum – This article first appeared in the journal Exhibition (Spring 2022) Vol. 41 No. 1 and is reproduced with permission. www.name-aam.org.
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).
- Stop 1
- Stop 2
- Stop 3
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.