Cool Kids in Wonderspaces – Pop Up Art

Kids, I know, it’s not your fault but when you’re off school, there is a good chance you’ll end at the museums. At least, this is how it goes in my world.

Sometimes, my two small loves (8 and 10) hide their joy, pretend to like it or plainly scream “Nooooo, not the museum”…So, I usually make it a surprise (yes, I am a cruel Mum! :-).

But I am also a Mum who cares about Art and about what Art does to people, especially kids. So to break the chanting spell of “Mum, can I play on the iPad?” and avoid a nuclear explosion on my part, I took them to Wonderspaces here in San Diego, a small pop-up art installation which was bound to NOT look like a traditional museum.

Results: Emerald gave it 9/10 and Gustav 8.7/10. I really wanted to know why so I interviewed them. One less hour on the iPad! Yes! And I’ll even put it in picture.

Michael Murphy, Come Together

Walking through Neon Tunnel by Kitsch Nitsch set the tone immediately.

Kitsch Nitsch, Neon Tunnel

Kids love 3D effects and colors so hey, we played and twirled!


Then we did it again with Rainbow Museum : You + Your Shadow by Danielle Strle because in my house, there is always a dance floor!

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Colors, light and playfulness was what immediately appealed to the kids and I.

That, and the fact that we next had to line up to register for a Virtual Reality (VR) experience. The boy-wonder loved that because “it’s interactive, Mum”. Really?

I don’t get it because we did not interact there…To me, it was a stand-up version of the iPad. Yet, definitely a big attraction that museums should consider to attract more kids…because if two VR experiences had not been for 13+ , then Gustav was giving Wonderspaces 10/10.


So I asked, why is this art place cool, kids? “Because it’s different. There are no paintings. There are no sculptures of people, or too many of them. Sculptures which lack uniqueness and are boring”, answered my girl.

You have to give it to the kids, bronze statues are going to struggle when Wonderspaces offers Blooms by John Edmark.

Blooms consist of three 3D printed sculptures, looking relatively unassuming when you block the strobe light shone above them.​

​ Yet as they rotate on their spinning platforms, Emerald was mesmerized by strobe “lighting building sculptures”. What Gustav found “mind-blowing” was that the sculptural effect of building these geometric shapes was made to “look slow when actually the dome turns very fast”.

​It was very cool so click on the short videos if you can’t go to Wonderspaces to see for yourself.

OK museums, so we have a problem with traditional sculptures being set up in a way that kids don’t relate to – we’re talking your future museum goers, your target consumers without whom you will die a slow death.  But when you ask them, it’s simple, they need a mise-en scène.

Come Together by Michael Murphy, they loved because it “surprised” them. It’s a suspended sculpture. From the side, the suspended colorful parts (later described by Gustav as Nespresso capsules!) are pretty and whimsical.

Michael Murphy, Come Together

As they resolve into a fist when looked from a specific angle, Come Together suddenly shows a narrative that was absent in the simply aesthetic side view.

I believe that if you take the time to look and walk around any sculpture, it will surprise you. The space occupied, its volumes, patina effects, change in negative spaces, there is so much to look at and reflect. I tried to push the kids a bit on this subject but no, they basically need something more…hmmm, punchy!

Michael Murphy, Come Together

And no, I had nothing to do with Gustav’s awesome choice of T-Shirt from the Nathan Sawaya Lego Art exhibition, even though it happened to be more than fitting for the occasion!

Participative Art

Active participation scores high for the kids. They could move, touch and actively engage with a lot of the installations. And not just for a few minutes.

Take Not Myself Today by Partners for Mental Health.

Not Myself Today by Partners for Mental Health

A board covered with badges, of all colors and forming a rainbow of what your moods can be. Pick one.

And that’s the trick: choose wisely, explore the options, be aware that you have a choice and a say in describing how you feel. YOU can pick your mood.

Emerald’s choice was to pick Excited. She liked she could “take something to keep”. Then she enjoyed checking out what other people had chosen. Apparently, there were a lot of Zen around. I had Blessed. Gustav had OKAY (he was still unsure he would be able to do the VR!).

Ada by Karina Smigla-Bobinski was another fun and participative installation.

Ada by Karina Smigla-Bobinski

“The ball was the artist and she was Art herself”, the kids reported.

Ada by Karina Smigla-Bobinski

My daughter even went further in her analysis saying that even though the “blurry scribble scrabble” left randomly on the walls by black chalks attached to the giant ball are not particularly beautiful, “it’s everybody doing it that counts (…), everybody is making the Art instead of just looking at it, like in normal museums”.

Ada by Karina Smigla-Bobinski
Ada by Karina Smigla-Bobinski

She is 10 and she has a lot to say. Maybe I should have picked a Proud badge as well.

Then I was surprised how long the kids stayed at The Last Word by Illegal Art.

The Last Word by Illegal Art

A honeycomb structure is filled with rolled up papers. Pick one with a white edge and write anything you feel you never had the chance to say. Then place it back showing the red edge.

The Last Word by Illegal Art

Emerald decided she wanted to add something to her message but could not trace it back. A perfect illustration of what this thoughtful and clever artwork is all about. It reminded me of those three words my Mum told me recently as we parted, a bit emotional because distance is tough. Say those words now, always take that chance. I am still unsure I seized the chance to say them to my late grandmother all these years ago…So they were my Last Word.

Finally, Daydream V2 by Nonotak was an epileptic journey into what looked to me like an animated version of Frank Stella’s Black Paintings from the 1960’s.

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And then we hit Sweet Spot by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell.

Sweet Spot by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell

A multitude of threads (actually 3700), like a Missoni loom changing your perception of what colors you think you see as you move along and around tiny alcoves. I thought it was peaceful, reflective, meditative and soft when next to it the VR installation was in full swing.

Sweet Spot by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell

Yet, my kids’ opinion was as follows: “Mum, we’ve seen a better one in that Museum in Nantes you took us to. This one is too small. In the other, the threads were all white, hanging from much higher and forming a maze we had to find our way through. That was majestic and we could interact with it”. In case you’re wondering, their words, not mine. I record them.

They refer to a piece called De l’Air, de la Lumière et du Temps by Susanna Fritscher at the Musée d’Arts of Nantes. See, these kids will keep going to museums for a long time…My plan is working!

Thank you Wonderspaces for making art fun and interactive. For making me think about how art and kids can indeed click better. Everybody learnt something that day.

Davis McCarty, Pulse Portal

If this post makes you want to go check Wonderspaces out, it’s on until August 27 in San Diego and will travel to Austin, TX. Check their website here for more.

© 2017 Ingrid Westlake

All pictures by Ingrid Westlake, unless otherwise stated.


12 thoughts on “Cool Kids in Wonderspaces – Pop Up Art

  1. LOVED this! I adored taking my children to museums! As adults, they tell me it’s one of their fondest memories. I’m choosing to believe them!! Kudos to you for taking yours!

  2. It always happens something interesting in SD for children and …adults too.It is amazing.Amazing to have a ‘cruel”mum who encourages them to see and enjoy museums!
    “‘Come together ” and “not Myself” are playful.
    Play with colors and ligths in the neon tunnel must be funny… and good choice for kids’s photos.
    Have a child mind even I was’nt a frequent visitor in the museums.
    LOVE Love specially and is touched by “The last word”…for that you had written and I love the colors rolled up messages!a lovely painting!
    It is my last word ..heu no Hope many many others…

    1. 💗💞💗💞 You may not have been to museums so much when you were a kid but you have travelling in your veins. And that, you made sure to transmit well 😉 I am thankful for it!

  3. My dear , you reminded me myself some years ago , when I used to take my three children to museums and art galleries. Now they go by themselves or sometimes we still go together. ( aged 38,36,34) and still enjoy it very much.
    I’m sure that you should have taken with you not only a Proud badget , but several ones !! Your kids are adorable yet bright. No wonder knowing her mom !!
    Totally agree with your lines. All of them. I also enormously enjoyed that show. I took my dad (87) we both had a great time. He’s an artist too. 🙂

    1. Thank you, dear Becky! Art at age 8,10, 38, 36, 34 and 87, it sounds like the perfect winning numbers for a Powerball ticket 😂 I love the games we play going through galleries and museums with the kids. Your words warm my heart as I picture my kids taking ME out to the museum when they become adults.
      Let’s meet up soon, Becky! 😘

  4. Fantastic article Ingrid, I really enjoyed it. Wish this was coming to the UK, it would certainly interest my daughter.

    1. Thank you, Denise! Check out their website that I linked in the post. I know they are going to Austin, TX next and will travel throughout the US. I will keep an eye for you too 😉

  5. This post is nice to read and watch.
    Your children fit well into the decor.
    A participatory museum, interacting with visitors, is cool.
    Certainly a great interest for the younger.

    I like “‘Participative Art’, pretty by colors, distracting by research and fun to know the choice of people ….

    “The Last Word” !!!!! Self reflection !! that’s good !!!

    It’s Modern Art …

    1. Thank you, Marie-Annick! Yes, participative art is key with children and I think it’s a great thing for adults as well. Engagement (or lack of it) is unfortunately one of the negatives of our society so such initiatives as Wonderspaces are great opportunity to engage with others and ourselves. Thank you for reading!

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