Engaging in Creativity at the Wellin Museum
Natalie Guterman '25
Photo Credit

Janelle Rodriguez

Engaging in Creativity at the Wellin Museum

April 24, 2024

The Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum is, at its core, a teaching museum. That means it is intrinsically focused on growth that results from thinking deeply and expressing creativity. Oftentimes, the Hamilton community experiences this through class tours, public lectures, and other programming targeted towards adults. But the Wellin is not just for adults. Once a month the usually quiet halls of the museum are filled with the joyful sounds of children at play. Children from the area come to the Wellin to learn about the artworks on view and practice engaging artistically. Wellin Kids is an opportunity for families and children in the community to interact with art and create their own. 

This programming is often in conversation with the current exhibition or a piece of art from the museum’s collection. The current exhibition, René Treviño: Stab of Guilt, is a visual playground for children and adults alike. In an exciting moment for all who enter the exhibition,  the gallery welcomes you with a giant glitter wall. The Circumference series doubles as a fantastic game of I-Spy, filled with familiar imagery like an Oreo, a sewer manhole, and a disco ball. Treviño  has filled the space with color, texture and exuberant symbols from everyday life and history. Wellin Kids is a chance for children and their families to explore this visual delight. 

This spring I have had the opportunity to work during a few different Wellin Kids programs. In February,  we hosted a Wellin Kids program called Spectacular Circular Symmetry. Docents walked families through the gallery, looking for examples of symmetry and noticing shape, color and texture. Treviño's Aztec Sun Stone provided a great example of symmetry that was easily recognized by the kids. After finding symmetry in the gallery they created their own. In a docent-led activity, kids painted on one side of a circle then folded it in half, transferring their marks onto the other side. I thought this was a great way for kids to make their own artwork inspired by the Aztec sun stone. 

I found their creations particularly impactful because they reflected themes seen in Stab of Guilt. Treviño explores the idea of a motif echoing throughout generations and history. In the Celestial Body-ody-ody series, for example, he repaints a "knot" designed by Albrecht Dürer. But Dürer actually was inspired by  another knot designed by Leonardo da Vinci.  Leonardo himself was inspired by traditional Islamic, Celtic, and Medieval symbols. Each generation and artist recreated an iconic design and with each new creation it changed slightly. The Wellin's programming engages kids in this artistic game of telephone. As they created their own circles and symmetrical images they join a long tradition of recreation and artistic expression.

In March, Wellin Kids looked outside the main gallery at a piece in the Wellin's collection on view in  Archive Hall. We looked at a sculpture by Jeffery Gibson called A Very Easy Death. While this piece deals with complicated and difficult topics, the children were able to focus on the material elements and learn new ways to create with beads. We made beaded patterns out of pony beads and created small woven squares.

The most recent Wellin Kids program, in April, took place the weekend before the solar eclipse! Docents led families on an astronomy-focused tour of the exhibition,  explaining how, during an eclipse, the moon passes in front of the sun, blocking its light. Stab of Guilt is full of celestial imagery and easily related to the eclipse. After practicing slow looking in the exhibition, the families made their own sun and moon craft that imitated an eclipse. Using colorful tissue paper and adhesive contact paper, children made translucent suns that were covered by a pivoting black decorated moon. This program helped kids better understand the eclipse and see naturally occurring events through a creative lens.

Wellin Kids is one of my favorite programs. I believe it creates community and encourages children and families to grow through art. As someone who was able to attend  art camps and museum workshops as a child, I can testify to how impactful it is to have these resources. Wellin Kids teaches children to view art as more than something you shouldn’t touch. It shows them how to access their creativity and inspires them to view art as a two way conversation. 

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