Thursdays are a special time for Jessica Roller and her 2-year-old daughter, Wren.
“We come every week for Tiny Thursdays,” said the Kettering mom, an artist who enjoys spending time in a museum environment.
On a recent Thursday, the trip was extra-special: the Dayton Art Institute had just opened “I See the Rhythm,” the newest exhibit in the family-friendly Experiencenter gallery. The show, which focuses on the relationship between art, sound and music, will run through April 2014.
The museum’s director of education, Susan Anable, came up with the theme and says the exhibit explores the creative space where music and the visual arts overlap.
We looked through our collection and realized we had a lot of musical instruments that hadn’t been on view,” she explained. “We’re trying to show the artwork in a new way, and I thought art and music made sense together and it was something we hadn’t done. Many visual artists were influenced and inspired by music.”
Just as rhythm in music controls the tempo of a song, she said, rhythm in art controls the movement in the picture or design.
Wall of sound
It doesn’t take long to spot the main attraction — it’s the amazing wall of shiny and inventive musical instruments that can be triggered by visitors of every size. If this particular morning is any indication, the adults are loving it as much as the kids.
In addition to the exciting sound sculpture, you’ll see exotic instruments from around the world: a Korean string instrument called a Kayageum, a Japanese flute known as a Biwa, a horn in the form of a dragon, and a rain drum from Southeast Asia. You can hear some of these instruments by donning earphones at the iPad kiosk.
Twentieth century works of art from the art museum’s collection that have a musical connection are also on display: Cantata by Norman Lewis and Red Circle by Dwinell Grant.
The idea that the rhyme and pattern of nursery rhymes represent some of our first experiences with rhythm is demonstrated by a singing card catalog that plays nursery rhymes, and the costumes that help youngsters perform “Hey, Diddle Diddle.”
Youngsters can decorate their own musical instruments, read books with their parents that relate to music, create a tune on a componium that works like a music box (and also are available for purchase in the gift shop). They can play a slit drum created by the museum’s Erich Reith and stage a puppet show.
Roller said her daughter especially loved the piano inspired by artist John Cage that can be “prepared” and played by the kids to alter its sound.
Cincinnati artist creates sound sculpture
The artist responsible for the interactive sound sculpture is Anthony Luensman of Cincinnati. His creation — which incorporates seven different instruments — can be activated one instrument at a time or all at once to create a giant sound. The music is triggered by push buttons or a joy stick. The name of the piece is Delirioso.
Luensman has exhibited both nationally and internationally. In 2007, he was invited to create a series of sculptures and installations for the Cincinnati Art Museum, and his recent 2012 solo show at the Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts combined sculpture, photography, sound and video. He’s the recipient of two Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards.
“I always liked music and first studied jazz,” said Luensman, who added that his projects often have sound components or musical themes. “Artists work alone a lot, but I like this interaction. I like to give up some of the control and let other people create within the parameters of the programming.”
Diane Stemper, the museum’s grants and education initiatives coordinator, said she’d been captivated by Luensman’s work over the years and recommended him for the Experiencenter exhibit, curated by the DAI’s education director Susan Anable.
“Anthony was invited to the DAI to see the Experiencenter space and talk about ideas for an interactive piece that incorporated music, was visually interesting and designed for youth and families to touch and play with,” Stemper explained.
Luensman was a pleasure to work with and worked out perfectly, she said.
“What is exciting about working with an artist is that they see the world around them, the spaces and objects and subsequent relationships in ways that most others do not,” she said. A case in point? Luensman called to ask if a flat wall could come down and be restored to its original curvature.
“He was able to see past the existing space and this particular wall, which was not part of the original architectural space, and imagine it as an amphitheater for an orchestra of sorts,” she said. “He understood the space in a distinctive way and could envision the interaction and layering of sound, light and reflection. Anthony was able to cue into and reference what we all now recognize with Delirioso as a musically theatrical space. Of course the answer was ‘yes’, the wall can come down!”
Roller said the Experiencenter offers a great way to experience art in a group.
“It offers lots of things I wouldn’t think to do at home,” she said. “Music and art do go hand-in-hand, but when you’re a visual artist, you don’t always think about music in this way. I don’t really know anything about music, so I’m excited to learn something new along with my daughter.”
HOW TO GO
What: “I See the Rhythm,” an interactive exhibit for families.
Where: The Experiencenter at the Dayton Art Institute
When: Through April 2014
About the exhibit: “I See the Rhythm” explores the creative space where music and the visual arts overlap. Highlights include Delirioso, interactive sound sculpture by Anthony Luensman, a 20-foot work of kinetic and electronic musical instruments wired together and played by visitors through push buttons and a joy stick. Many people can play at once and the sounds range from soft and atmospheric to a dense wall of sound.
20th century works of art from the museum’s collection: John Cage (Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel), Norman Lewis (Cantata) and Dwinell Grant (Red Circle)
Musical instruments from around the globe: Biwa (Japanese flute); Kayageum (Korean string instrument); Horn in the Form of a Dragon (Tibet); Rain Drum (Southeast Asia); Slit Drum (Papua New Guinea); bell and drum from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Thunderbolt bell (Tibet); bells from Korea and China; Native American flutes and rattles.
12 hands-on gallery activities will explore visual and musical composition, art making, dramatic play, and storytelling:
- “Prepare” a baby grand piano and play improvised compositions a la John Cage
- Find the origins of instruments on display with an interactive map
- Listen to the music of instruments on display at the iPad kiosk
- Create your own tune on a Componium (works like a music box)
- Draw patterns, letters, words and create movement with stencils and colored pencils
- Make a picture with magnetic shapes that shows feeling and rhythm
- A singing card catalogue — open the drawer and hear your favorite nursery rhyme — then fill the drawers with the appropriate words.
- Play a slit gong! (handmade by Erich Reith)
- Decorate an instrument
- Make a drawing that shows rhythm.
- Interact with the sound installation, Delirioso and Sonic Interplay in September, and the Biggers dance floor in January 2014.
- For the youngest of visitors, The Art Place for Young Learners will present art and song, rhyme and pattern through the lens of classic nursery rhymes, which represent some of our first experiences with rhythm.
Hands-on activities include: Puppets, dressing up as a character from a nursery rhyme, drawing and drumming! The area will feature one of Erich Reith’s handmade slit gong drums that visitors can play. The light table also will stay along with the reading area, blocks and the pattern activity.
June 22, July 27, Aug 17: Super Saturday family workshops in the Experiencenter, Saturdays 1-3 p.m, museum members are free. Non-member family of 4: $10. Each additional child, $2
May 30: Tiny Thursdays, 11:00 a.m. to noon, Experiencenter classroom, $6/child with member/caregiver, $8/child with non-member caregiver
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
About Anthony Luensman: An accomplished multimedia artist, Luensman has exhibited nationally and internationally. In 2007 Luensman was invited to create Arenas for the Cincinnati Art Museum, a series of sculptures and installations throughout the museum. His recent 2012 solo show at the Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts won support from the National Endowment for the Arts and incorporated thought provoking sculpture, photography, sound and video. Luensman is the recipient of several awards including two Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards, three City of Cincinnati Individual Artist Grants and the prestigious Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship.
The Experiencenter will feature new work and activities throughout the year that continue the exploration art and music.
- Delirioso, Anthony Luensman, interactive sound installation — Through April 2014
- Sonic Interplay, Michael Bashaw, interactive sound installation — Sept. 2013 –April 2014
- Mandala of the B-Bodhisattva I, Stanford Biggers – Interactive hip-hop dance floor and video — January to April 2014
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