On a beautiful sunny day in South Florida, I carved a few hours out of my family’s busy weekend to take my two children, ages 11 and 8, to the grand opening of the new Young At Art Museum in Davie. My kids were unsure of what to expect, and I wondered whether or not the new museum would entertain and inform two kids who have experienced both the thrills of amusement parks and the culture of some of our nation’s finest museums. It turns out the new museum far exceeded anything we could have imagined.
Only a few minutes from our home, Young At Art had been a place we had visited on many occasions in the past, when my kids were much younger. As babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and even during those early elementary school years, Young At Art was a nice diversion from the neighborhood parks, shopping malls, libraries and other places where we would spend our unstructured time in seek of amusement. Though we had a family membership for several years, we let it expire long ago thinking we had outgrown the institution and experienced many times over everything it had to offer. Also, our unstructured time was diminishing. My kids had moved on and found their passions on the baseball field and in the dance studio and maintained little more than a basic interest in visual art.
Since we make several trips a day back and forth on I-595, we’ve watched the new museum take shape over the past couple years and wondered about the new adventures awaiting our discovery. With the grand opening weekend upon us, we decided we should have a look inside.
Our first impression: the new Young At Art bears no resemblance to its predecessor. Stepping into its gleaming lobby, we knew we were in for a completely new experience. After we were done admiring the life-like Duane Hanson sculpture, “Child with Puzzle,” my kids were hooked and couldn’t wait to explore the rest of the museum. They raced toward the back of the museum and gravitated to the Greenscapes gallery, where a paper artist lured them into one of the museum’s many studio workshops with the invitation to make their own paper using recycled materials. They spent a few minutes learning about the process of making paper from the visiting artist and then rolled up their sleeves and got to work choosing their colors and materials.
After my artists set their new works of art out on the sundeck to dry, we stopped into Pablo Cano’s Magical Workshop & Theater where they quickly got to work choosing from a dizzying assortment of neatly organized recycled materials to create their own puppets. My inspired artists first sketched their creations, then chose some recycled rubber phone cases, cardboard tubes, pipe cleaners and bits of shiny paper, among other items, to bring to life their visions of frog and butterfly marionettes. My 11-year-old was satisfied with his creation, but my 8-year-old performing artist and self-proclaimed drama queen took her creation to the puppet theater and put on her own show, complete with dancing butterfly.
Next stop was the Culturescapes gallery, where the Wave climbing sculpture was calling their names. Though they probably could have climbed and played there all day, they were happy to move on to find out what else was in store. With interesting metal sculptures by Edouard Duval Carrie; paintings by Leonel Matheu; African textiles by Chisseko Kondowe; woodcuts by Kinichi Yokono; and basketry, beading and carvings by Pedro Zepeda, they were exposed to and experienced diverse cultures and traditions as seen through the eyes of artists from Haiti, Latin America, Cuba, Africa, Asia and the Seminole Indian Tribe.
Next, like paper clips to a magnet, they were drawn to a gigantic spool of wax. Though they had never seen anything like it, they instinctively picked up the carving tools nearby and began sculpting abstract creations, their fingers feeling the soft curls of wax that pooled by their feet.
On our way out, we passed two more galleries (one designed for children age 5 and younger). With other commitments on our day’s calendar, we left the museum after a couple of stimulating hours knowing we would be back to experience everything we did not get to, as well as to revisit our favorites from the day. I’m excited to have this impressive cultural institution right in my own backyard and am in awe of the effect it had on my children. In the blink of an eye, they gained a new understanding of art and an appreciation that, with continued exposure, I hope will last a lifetime.
By: Amy Hoffman