Sunday, December 24, 2017

Surface Tension LA and Noah's Ark

The Skirball Museum was chosen as a kid friendly meeting place for my daughter and an old friend.  There were two dynamite exhibits - one temporary and one permanent.  If you're ever in LA with young kids, be sure to check out the permanent one.

First The Temp Exhibit - Surface Tension LA

The most striking thing when you walk into the room is the map of LA on the floor.  It has every street. But no names.  It goes from the beach on the west to way off in the east, well past East LA.  I confess, it's part of LA I don't know at much about and there were no red circles with numbers out there so I didn't look too carefully.  North/south is more constrained - from the near valley north to not even LAX to the south.  There's a bit of South LA that goes out the doorway into the hall.

Z immediately began running the freeways.

And you can also see the red circles that have numbers.

The numbers show the locations of murals which are pictured on the wall.  The picture below just shows a few of them.

Just checking out the city and trying to figure out where places were without the street names.  It made curved streets make more sense in this huge map format.  And then there were all the murals.  Some of which I knew - including the "Pope of LA" that we saw in downtown the other day.

And the security guard was really into the project, asking us what we thought it meant.  He went on to say something about no one mural tells the story, but the combination of all the murals makes a statement.

Ken Gonzales-Day who conceived of this project and took thousands of pictures of murals, wrote on a description of the exhibit in the room:
"I believe these images reveal more about Los Angeles and its communities, its struggles and its losses, than one can find in any book.  I witnessed memorials to those lost and to those who inspire, as well as the rage and political frustration of city residents, and even resistance to displacement.  In a city of contested spaces, these are traces of its people:  material celebrations and negotiations of the politics of place, often painted side by side."

Gonzales-Day is an art professor at Scripps College in Claremont.  His personal website has more on his art, including a larger picture of this exhibit with many more of the murals.  It's the third dot at the top of the page.

Second, The Permanent Exhibit - Noah's Ark

I have to say upfront that this is the best interactive kid space I can recall ever having been to, and I've been to a lot.  It's aesthetically beautiful, it's resourceful, imaginative, and full of interesting things for kids - and adults - to do.  They also limit how many people can be in the space - you get tickets that are good for a specific 90 minute block.  We had 2pm-3:30 on the Saturday before Christmas.  There was lots of room for the kids to explore.

If you live in LA and have young kids (3-9 is probably ideal) or your visiting from out of town, this is a great spot to go.  It's not photogenic - big pictures don't show the detail, which is what's so amazing, and pictures of the details miss out on how it all fits together.  Maybe it would be fairer to say I wasn't up to the task of digitally capturing this place.  Plus I only had my small camera with me and my kids have a ban on family pictures on the blog.

But here are a few attempts.

There's just so much going on in the room, so many nooks and crannies, so many animals, things to push or pull or crank or climb up, under, into.  This is one room that is 'inside the ark.'

We first got a kid friendly intro to what we were going to see.  Part one was the storm, with rain and wind and lightning.  Part two is the ark.  Part three is the rainbow, a room where everyone can work with paper and colored pencils and stencils.  World Immigration Day was earlier in the week, so there was a place to write notes to immigrants and hang them up.

Most everything in this exhibit is made of recycled objects.  As you can see, the elephant's trunk is partly made of bamboo steamer baskets. It was all very clever.  Like this alligator, made out of a violin case, violin and the teeth are little plastic tubes.

In the storm room, there were lots of cranks to turn.  This one made lightning in the glass tube.  Another blew air into a tube  showing wind as the leaves inside flew all over.  And there were drums and other ways to recreate thunder.

There were neat ways to climb up.  A pulley to send messages or whatever up to folks on a different level.

And interesting ways to get back down.

There wasn't any real biblical indoctrination - just the most basic telling of the story of Noah's ark and the animals.  They even had fake animal poop in the section of the ark that held the animals.  And brooms and dustbins to clean it up with.

A truly wonderful place for young kids to explore and climb and have great adventures.

Here's where you can learn a lot more about Noah's Ark.


  1. So good to see Ken's work at Skirball. You might remember Out North had his installation 'Bone-Grass Boy' in our gallery back in the 90s.

    Have fun in LA!

  2. Wow, missed that connection. I guess I didn't see every exhibit at Out North. But you guys always knew how to pick good stuff. This exhibit was really engaging and meaningful. Merry Christmas.


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