The Hirshhorn Spreading Art Through Workshops
The Hirshhorn may be best known as an internationally respected house of contemporary art, but it also offers a home to budding artists and art-lovers. In addition to its collection of world-class objects, the museum invests in the future of art by hosting free workshops for teenagers. This Friday one of these workshops culminates in a free performance in the museum’s Ring Auditorium that is open to the public. Called “digital+physical” the workshop immersed 16 participants in multiple formats and creative processes for one week. Boris Willis, co-instructor of the workshop, brought his experiences as a choreographer, performer, and game designer to classes with the students. He collaborated with Anna Kassinger, Program Coordinator for the Hirshhorn, in developing the workshop. Watching them in action with their students on Wednesday was as inspiring as it was enlightening: there was dialogue, critical reflection, and laughter. One project on view was by two students who transformed a two-dimensional depiction of their path to the Hirshhorn into an insanely clever video using a sound score and stop motion.
Shifting between different media allows students to broaden their ways of making ideas visible and tangible. As Willis says “It’s interesting how kids take to iPads very quickly but there’s something valuable as well about non-digital interfaces in today’s world. This is a workshop where people are not only making art on screens but also making things in physical spaces. Switching between formats is, for me, the world we live in. Especially with our mobile devices, we always have digital presences with us and it is important to keep in mind both, the digital and the physical. We can create things with apps but it is
also important to play with a stick as opposed to with a virtual
stick. There was an article in WIRED that listed some of the greatest toys of all time: a stick, a box, sand…”
Students’ creations will be shown this Friday at 1:15pm. Audiences will see their accomplishments in developing collaborative practices as well as artistic approaches and technological skills. Kassigner says “They work with professional artists, use professional equipment, find inspiration in the museum’s collection, and then get to bring their vision to life. I think it’s particularly empowering for young people to have that access.” Studies into museum and theater attendance point to education as the number one indicator of a person’s likelihood to attend cultural offerings. These workshops,
housed in a laboratory-like space that opens onto the Hirshhorn’s sculpture garden, are also incubators for the next generation of designers and museum-goers. Through ARTLAB+ they gain access not only to computers, iPads, green screen, and beanbags where they sit, think, and create, but to one another. Friendships develop across geographical and economic boundaries as students come from different parts of DC, northern Virginia, and Maryland. Kassinger says workshop participants come from public, private, and charter schools. Watching them working on their projects this week they looked like a diverse range of ages and interests bound together by curiosity and creativity.
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