Having Fun with Fine Art

Article excerpt

Alexander Calder, inventor of the mobile, possessed an inherent playfulness, almost an innocence, that more than justifies his choice as featured artist in an innovative venue far from the haut monde of 57th Street. "Calder's Art: A Circus of Creativity," which opens May 18 at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, marks a first - the work of a renowned artist exhibited in a space that encourages hands-on appreciation.

Normally, the thought of sticky-fingered children with runny noses weaving their way among Calder's priceless works would send shivers down the spines of museum directors. Any hesitation among lending institutions was momentary, however. "This is something Sandy would have loved," enthuses David Ross, director of the Whitney Museum of American Artin New York, which sent several of "Sandy" Calder's pieces to Indianapolis for the show, which runs until Jan. 5, 1997. "There is no audience more appropriate for this artist and no artist more appropriate for this audience."

Strictly speaking, the Calder show will not be hands-on: Curious youngsters still won't be allowed to touch the works of art. "It will be interactive, however," stresses Peter Sterling, president of the Children's Museum. Kids will be encouraged to dance to the tune of Little Richard's "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" beneath one mobile titled Hanging Spider, for example; their gyrations will stir up the air, causing the mobile to move.

Adjacent to another sculpture, visitors can manipulate the lighting. At another stop, youngsters will try to duplicate Calder's single-line circus drawings on an Etch-a-Sketch or make designs of their own. Children age 10 and above will be able to construct their own mobiles from the same materials employed by Calder, and everyone will be able to create a circus figure to add to an ongoing display.

The Indianapolis show has been three years in the making. According to Sterling, there were three major obstacles. "First, we had to convince lenders of the value of a major art exhibition at a children's museum," he says. "Then we had to convince them that Indianapolis, Indiana, was the correct venue for it. And, finally, we had to take into consideration our own visitors. This is normally a place for a family with kids. …