Play Time, this summer’s major contemporary exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art, poses a serious question about a seemingly unserious topic: Is play – the spontaneous, unstructured time found to foster creativity and problem-solving skills – strictly for kids? This free exhibition, which runs approximately Memorial Day weekend (May 22) through Labor Day (Sept. 6) across the TMA campus, should bring a smile to visitors of all ages.
Contemporary society tends to classify play as an activity for childhood, a frivolous pursuit that wastes time and detracts from more meaningful endeavors. Yet according to experts like Stuart Brown, M.D., author, psychiatrist and founder of the National Institute of Play, play is more like oxygen. As he writes in his book “Play,” “It’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.” This might seem surprising until one considers everything that constitutes play. Play is art, books, movies, music, comedy, flirting and daydreaming, according to Dr. Brown.
Halona Norton-Westbrook, Ph.D., couldn’t agree more.
“As we grow up we tend to trivialize play and relegate it to childhood, but it’s an important element of life that we wanted to explore in an exhibition,” said Norton-Westbrook, the Museum’s Mellon Fellow and associate curator of contemporary art. “This show is not only about play in the traditional sense, but also the idea of being in the moment, of inspiring wonder, of invoking your natural curiosity.”
Co-curated by Norton-Westbrook and Associate Director Amy Gilman, Play Time is a more experimental exhibition format for the Museum that aims to defy traditional ideas of art viewing with “pop-ups that aren’t confined to one space and one time or one medium. We wanted to challenge ourselves to find ways to even extend the experience into the community,” said Norton-Westbrook.
Works on view in the exhibition and experiences will change throughout June, July and August. Some will even switch locations, like artist Kurt Perschke’s RedBall Project. The name is literal: Perschke has placed his massive, inflated red ball into unexpected spaces in cities across the globe, including Abu Dhabi, Taipei, Toronto, Sydney and Montreal. Spectators seem drawn to bouncing up against it, photographing themselves near it and generally staring at it in curious wonder. Perschke will choose several locations around Toledo to place the RedBall Project during its 10-day display in August.
The Canaday Gallery will be filled with artist Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam’s Harmonic Motion, a colorful, multi-sensory playground that allows children and adults to climb and play inside its hand-crocheted hanging nets.
Redmoon Theater, a Chicago-based troupe known for using larger-than-life contraptions and puppets to create performances bright with spectacle, will offer the most ephemeral of Play Time experiences when it performs for the opening celebration on June 13.
Other works of art include Jillian Mayer’s Cloud Swing, a literal title for a dreamy work of art that involves actual swings facing a visually reproduced sky, allowing participants to feel as if they’re sailing through the clouds; Kim Harty’s Glass Mountain, which the glassblower will create with molten glass in front of a live audience; Stina Köhnke’s Animation, an exuberant wall installation of stuffed animals; and Edith Dekyndt’s Ground Control, a black ball filled with helium that moves in reaction to viewers in the gallery.