Thursday, October 13, 2005

DAM

Cathy has once again inspired me to write, because even though she has a bad head cold and feels a lack of inspiration, she is able to come up with her usual witty, entertaining blog entries.

You may all have heard in the news about how Colorado suffered a terrible winter storm last weekend and was buried under 20 inches of snow. You probably have not heard the news that it is a beautiful, 70 degrees, and sunny today with lovely autumn leaves.

Well, it didn’t snow (much) in Boulder, but it did rain for about 48 hours and about 2.5 inches of rain fell in that time. Not such a big deal, really, but there is still no roof on our house and it wasn’t that pleasant to be outdoors. The house seems to be pretty much okay, and I tried not to panic unduly over the persistent lack of a roof. To take advantage of the weather, the family spent the day on Sunday at the Denver Art Museum (DAM).

We have never taken the opportunity to explore Denver, and we didn't do it this time either, but we drove through a different part of city to get the museum. The museum is more centrally located than the Zoo and the Natural History museum, the only other Denver attractions we have visited. It was nice to see more of the city, though it looked sodden, and I would like to get to know it better.

We knew we were near the museum when we saw a giant wooden chair with a horse statue on top. The kids enjoyed the whimsy of that and until then, I don't think they understood the kind of fun we could have.

It turns out the museum has family programs on the weekend which includes activity backpacks and a family fun center. We were one of the few families there, it was not crowded in the least.

We started with the backpacks. Rees picked one about jaguars, snakes, and birds and Kadin picked one about Aztecs. We ended up only exploring the 4th-floor exhibits of South American, Pre-Columbian artifacts, but what a collection it was.

The 4th floor is very staid and traditional with objects in sanitized glass cases, but the backpacks really interested the children and drew us in. The whole setting was suffused with quiet formality, so the kids were a bit subdued and uncomfortable. But the first instruction in the backpack was to imagine that we were in a tropical rain forest surrounded by animals, many of whom were hidden. And sure enough, in the artifacts all around us, we found hidden animals. Of course, to find animals, you need to be quiet and stealthy, so this fit in quite well.

We hunted for animals and tried to imagine these artifacts in their original setting. I was really blown away by the complexity of the civilizations and the variety and beauty of artifacts. I was left wanting to learn more about the Maya and the Inca and their predecessors and antecedents. Greg fell in love with an Aztec jar and the kids really had a good time.

The backpacks then directed us to the family fun center. Here there were chairs the kids could construct and decorate, a temple of foam blocks to build, and amazing Egyptian dress-up clothes, among other things.

The dress-up clothes were especially well done. The person who made them had a real passion was clearly obsessed with fabrics and textures. There were ibis headdresses and winged capes, slithery crocodiles and lotus blossoms. They were extremely well constructed and durable and had clever, aesthetically pleasing fasteners. You really felt like someone special when you put on these raiments. (They were sort of like human-sized folkmanis puppets, for those of you familiar with folkmanis.) Though beautiful, they were also practical and each had a large, prominent loop sewn in so you could easily hang them back up when you were done. It was nice to see something so well done that was also so kid friendly.

Each of us also had fun designing and making patterns on discs that we put on tops and then spun. It was exciting to see how everyone's creation looked in motion. Then it was time to go and the kids didn't want to leave. There was plenty more in the museum and in Denver to explore, but we'll have to save that for the next rainy weekend.

2 comments:

Mom said...

I visited DAM two (or was it three?!) years ago with Rees and Kadins cousins, then aged about 2 and 4. I'd visited DAM many, many years ago (before I had kids) and remembered being impressed, but with no clear memory of what we'd find now.

This time the boys and I also had a wonderful time --- stayed three and a half hours and they still didn't want to leave.

My technique is to discuss the "no touching" rule ahead of time, then just amble through the galleries with no particular agenda. Talk about what we see, stop when something's particularly interesting.

The four-year-old led us into a temporary exhibit of contemporary art (which I hadn't thought would be as interesting to them as Native Amterican art) and they were just as intrigued and asked as many questions (even though I didn't have such ready answers to why all the people were naked or why the artist has assembled a collection of such macabre objects!)

We liked the horse on huge chair, too!

cda said...

Hey! You're always inspiring me. How can I inspire you? The museum sounds great. Maybe Stu can give you a behind-the-scenes at the Peabody when you come to Boston/Cambridge next month!