New Art Connections May Bring out the Artist in You; Interactive Art Education Center at Cummer Encourages Visitors of All Ages to Get Creative

Article excerpt

Byline: TANYA PEREZ-BRENNAN, The Times-Union

It was the third time the girls had stopped at the same exhibit.

Scotia and Teslin Penoyer, ages 10 and 5, had been to the old Art Connections at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. But Saturday was the day they had been waiting for -- the grand opening of the new Art Connections interactive art education center, with 22 new exhibits.

And for some reason, they kept being drawn to Face to Face, the self-portrait corner. Scotia stood in front of a screen that took her picture and then, with her finger, she drew an outline over the image.

"Don't do it fast," said her father, Brian Penoyer.

"I look a little hairy," she mused, as she added strands of hair to her head. "Oops!"

She started all over and paused as the image came up again.

"Now," she said, her finger moving over it, "a bit of detail."

As the Penoyer family went through the new Art Connections, they noted differences from the earlier one, which opened 12 years ago.

"I think it's much better," said Hilda Penoyer, the girls' mother. "There's more for both adults and children with the hands-on exhibits. It involves you more, and it teaches more art techniques."

She said it helps connect art to people's everyday lives.

"I think that the Cummer does a wonderful job in making art accessible for everyone," she said. "I've learned so much more from the Cummer. This [Art Connections] is open to adults, and I like that, because sometimes I come here alone."

Indeed, as the family went through the exhibit, an older couple sat and watched a video called The Cummer Legacy.

"It's about making art relevant to the community," said Hope McMath, education director. Art Connections uses interactive exhibits to explain the museum's permanent col- lection.

Art Connections started with a group of people who believed in art education and wanted the Cummer to play more of a role in that area. Fred Schultz, who was chairman of the museum during its big expansion 12 years ago, said the original Art Connections was patterned after a similar exhibit in Montgomery, Ala. Cindy Edelman, an art educator and advocate, was on the committee that helped initiate Art Connections.

"I had been wanting to see the Cummer do more because I think it dovetails so nicely with the community," she said.

With the new Art Connections, she hopes more people will be drawn to the museum, and that the new exhibits will reenergize kids.

"I think the didactic part and then going and having a fun experience is what makes it so unique and so special," she said.

The Penoyer girls certainly seemed to think so.

"I like it better than the old one," Scotia said, as she and Teslin jumped up and down in the Tennenbaum Room, watching the projected outlines of their bodies on the psychedelic-looking screen in front. …


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