It is widely accepted that children learn through play. Games, role-playing and arts and crafts allow children to unlock their imagination and learn by exploring the world around them.
Many of the local museums have programs celebrating child's play, offering instruction in various genres of art, while providing ample history of the subjects, all at the wee tot's level. Living Arts of Tulsa, 308 S. Kenosha, has had a program in place since the mid-1970s called ArtCore, which allows area middle and high schools students to produce two gallery exhibitions per year revolving around a theme chosen by the participants.
Steve Liggett, artistic director at Living Arts, said he's often heard parents of the students participating in ArtCore remark that they wished there were a program similar to that for adults.
How does that saying about asking and receiving go again?
Three months ago, Liggett and Living Arts introduced a new program called the "Art of Play," a "social/learn/play experience for adults."
The program revolves around the premise set forth in the 1960s that asserted the right hemisphere of the brain is where creativity lies, while the left hemisphere is used for reasoning and logic. Most of us, most of the time, use our left brains--when we pay bills, do our taxes, work (unless you have a really fantastic job).
Liggett explained that research emerged to suggest that playing can be an effective tool used to exercise the right hemisphere of the brain. So can boredom.
"When you're really bored, you're right brain can become active if you start doodling or daydreaming," Liggett said.
Rather than bore his patrons to the point of creativity, Liggett decided to give them an opportunity to indulge in pure, unadulterated play, much like what ArtCore does for adolescents.
"As long as it's safe, respectful and legal, it can go anywhere," Liggett said.
He coupled this interest in letting adults explore through play with his passion for cutting edge, contemporary artists--the likes of Meredith Monk, Philip Glass and John Gage, major players in contemporary art who may still be unknown to many in Tulsa.
"It's fun to play like these artists, to learn about the artists who changed the way we think about performance art, video art..." said Liggett.
Time to Play
Thus, the concept of "Art of Play" was born. Each third Thursday of the month, Living Arts members can gather in the gallery at about 5:30pm. A local artist will offer a presentation about a notable contemporary artist whose work has had some outstanding, lasting affect on his or her chosen genre. After the presentation, participants can further explore what they've just learned by actual constructing, shooting, performing, etc., an original piece of work in that artist's style.
I attended last month's presentation, which was led by local video artist, middle school teacher and musician (you may have heard of his band, the Starkweather Boys) David McPherson.
McPherson started exploring art when he was 13, drawing and painting. He grew up in a rural environment, he said, and soon he began to shoot still videos in the woods near his house. He was hooked.
He's exhibited in Tulsa and taught video art to children, but this was his first experience presenting a class to adults.
We began by watching a short video of Tony Oursler's work. Oursler is an internationally-renowned video artist who impacted the genre significantly when he began shooting video and projecting it on various inanimate object. He's projected onto skyscrapers in New York City, trees in Central Park and various oddly-shaped sculptures.
In each of his pieces is a human element. Typically, the video being projected is of a face, and it's usually speaking, although not always audibly or coherently. Always, though, Oursler is offering some sort of analytic statement on the state of human being, of humanity, of how we interact with and react to one another. There's always a tug of emotion, a reaction to his work that perfectly conveys the humanistic qualities Oursler is exploring. If you want to see an example of his work, head over to the basement of Philbrook Museum of Art.
After our video on Oursler and a brief discussion of the history of video art, we were ready to play. McPherson handed the only other attendee to that evening's program (a woman who had never been to Living Arts before but heard about the event and wanted to do something "fun") and me each a package of white balloons, which we blew up and taped together to made a sculpture.
We then took turns videotaping ourselves speaking, telling bedtime stories, talking about our kids, and we projected the video onto the balloons. We played with the projection angles to see how that would affect our image. Not being completely satisfied with our product, we started to experiment--and this is where I think we were successful in using the event exactly how it was intended--holding a single balloon up to the projector and then projecting it onto a painting hanging in the back of the gallery. The painting was of a face with fangs, and so when we projected our own images onto it, we had fun matching our eyes with the painting's eyes, our nose with the painting's snout and our mouths with the long, sharp fangs.
It was really, really fun. Mission accomplished.
Membership is required for admittance to the "Art of Play." Liggett pointed out that galleries in other areas of the country similar to Living Arts have upwards of 500 members. Living Arts doesn't have nearly that many, but he hopes this event will act as a sort of membership drive.
Membership to Living Arts is only $35, and it gets you into this event free every month for at least the next eight months, not to mention all sorts of other freebies and goodies at the gallery all year. You can sign up for membership online at livingarts.org or when you go to the gallery for your first "Art of Play" experience.
The next "Art of Play" event is Thurs., Dec. 18, from 5-7pm and will be led by Steve Liggett and Charlotte Rhea. The two will offer a presentation on performance art, introducing a new artist, Laurie Anderson, and presenting footage of her work "Home of the Brave." A discussion about performance art and, of course, some participation will follow.
More, More, More
The third Thursday of the month also marks the new program at Philbrook, 2727 S. Rockford, which is similar in concept to Living Art's "Art of Play" an allows patrons to explore and learn about a various genre of art, partly through lecture and partly through doing. This Thurs., Dec. 18, Live4This artist collaborative will talk about collaborative art and then allow patrons to learn about what they do by painting together on large sheets of paper.
The event is from 5-7pm and is free with museum admission. All of Philbrook is open during the event, so participants can feel free to explore before, during and after the presentation. (Head down to the basement and check our the Oursler piece!) Now, we just have to get Living Arts and Philbrook to offer its programs on different Thursdays...
Also this week, many of our favorite holiday shows continue their runs at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. 2nd St. American Theatre Company's A Christmas Carol continues in the Williams Theatre of the PAC Dec. 18-23 at 7:30pm, except for Sunday's matinee, which begins at 2pm.
ATC also presents David Sedaris's The Santaland Diaries Dec. 18-20 at 8:15pm in the Liddy Doenges Theatre of the PAC.
And the Tulsa Ballet continues its annual production of The Nutcracker Dec. 18-19 at 7pm, Dec. 20 at 2pm and 7pm and Dec. 21 at 7pm. For more on all of these shows, visit tulsapac.com.
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