Museum offers a good i.d.e.a. for family fun - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Museum offers a good i.d.e.a. for family fun

July 9th, 2019 SanTan Sun News
Museum offers a good i.d.e.a. for family fun
Family Fun

By Srianthi Perera


With summer around the corner and road trips beckoning families, the i.d.e.a. Museum in Mesa has just opened an exhibition to spur those plans.

“Roadside USA,” running through Sept. 6, aims to stimulate young imaginations with artwork, information, fun activities and games featuring 10 states.

The exhibit is based on the American tradition of the summer road trip.

Before starting on the real journey, however, there’s the exhibition to indulge.

A few minutes into opening day, groups of little boys and girls descended on the museum and settled themselves happily at the various stations with the confidence that comes from practice.

“Who wants to come to my store?” piped a little girl looking around at a makeshift trading post colored a lovely lilac.

The Sebold siblings, Calvin, 6, and Logan, 4, were already engrossed in a craft station.

“We like to come here; it’s just much more relaxed, and they love it,” said their mom, Megan Sebold. “We stop at every art station, we do the map every time, they really do engage in it every time we’re here.”

The art is open-ended. Parents are encouraged to help, but not instruct the children in any way.

“We want kids to use their imagination and really create from their heart versus follow instructions,” said museum spokeswoman Yvette Armendariz. “It’s supposed to help with problem solving, if you can think out of the box and not be told what to do.”

The Sebolds have been museum members practically all their lives and visit each new exhibition about four times.

Although it’s a temptation to escape – quite literally – to a cool place, they also come for other reasons.

The children’s museum is attractive because of its manageability, Sebold said. It’s easier for little feet to get around and less overwhelming than at the larger establishments.

“They can actually interact with exhibits and see things and stop and take their time, versus you go somewhere huge and you’re just everywhere and I’m stressed trying to keep them,” Sebold added.

The atmosphere at the i.d.e.a. Museum also lends to parents and children spending constructive, educational time together.

A gallery guide, a.k.a. a “travel guide” in this exhibition, is given to each child to stamp at the stations pertaining to the states on the map.

During their trip, they also learn about places of interest, such as the Space Needle in Seattle, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and the Kennedy Space Center in central Florida.

“There’s information on each stop and when they go through, they’re learning something, not just seeing art or just playing,” Armendariz said. “Hopefully, it provides that quality time with the parent and child.”

This exhibition features 59 artworks from 21 artists from around the United States, including Arizona. They include paintings, digital art, ceramics, quilts, photographs, video and a mixed-media collage.

Phoenix artist Deborah McMillion-Nering has been presenting work at the museum for many years.

Her current contribution consists of two digital collages using an iPad technique and a collection of historical postcards. “Mermaid Motel” and “The Diving Lady” harkens to mid-last century’s motel swimming pools in the West.

“Since my parents drove around the country and we painted in the backseat, this is definitely my atmosphere, staying in these kinds of hotels,” she said.

Besides the changing exhibitions, the perennial kids’ favorite, Artville, is a permanent exhibition and activity area for children from birth to four years.

Set up as a small-town environment, features include a lending library, café, lemonade stand, veterinary clinic, art studio, performing art stage and train.

The i.d.e.a. Museum, first called the Center for Fine Arts and then the Arizona Museum for Youth, was founded in 1978 by John O Whiteman, who passed recently. It’s owned by the City of Mesa and supported by the i.d.e.a. Museum Foundation.

The names changed over the years, but the concept stayed the same: exhibit, teach and interact with the fine arts from a young age. The “i.d.e.a.” in the name stands for imagination, design, experience and art.

According to Sunnee D. O’Rork, executive director, the museum receives visitors from around the Valley and tracks about 90,000 annual attendance and a running membership of 1,500 family households.

This compares favorably with the 65,000 annual attendance a few years ago.

“It’s really grown,” she said.

During the 2018 general election, a proposed bond of $5 million passed. Now, the museum is gearing for a capitol campaign in the future.

“We plan on really just building out the museum, renovating it, not totally building a new building,” she said.

O’Rork said stakeholder meetings have been held and that a site master plan has been completed with the idea of reutilizing the space better.

Plans call for tripling the size of Artville, creating a larger birthday party space, a café so that visitors may linger and more interactives.

Other plans include raising the ceiling and placing an overhead bridge, renovating the atrium to include a climber, constructing a stage and an area in the grounds for school buses.

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