Minimal Play at The Art League’s New Exhibit

Playing with one of the few interactive pieces at the "Play" exhibit.


Penning a blog that includes recommendations for upcoming events can be tricky.  Obviously, if they are upcoming, I haven’t actually been to them. So, I have to base my suggestions on how they sound based on the information available to me. Most events and adventures that sound promising actually meet or even exceed expectations.  But every now and then, something doesn’t hit the mark.

Unfortunately, this was the case with The Art League’s new Play exhibit currently on display at The Torpedo Factory.  I posted about it twice last week, both in weekday recommendations and in the round-up of weekend activities.  The promo materials said it was a “juried exhibit exploring whimsical, playful works, the activity or idea of fun and play, or actual interactive works which encourage visitors to become involved in artwork on an entirely new level.”  The call for submissions encouraged interactive works that could be handled, added to, moved around. And it’s being presented with the art initiative Minds Wide Open: Virginia Celebrates Children and the Arts.

All of these things combined made it sound like art nirvana for kids. I pictured a gallery filled with cool, interactive art installations, my children happily playing with them and creating some of their own artwork.

So, we headed to Old Town yesterday afternoon, excited for something new.  When we first walked into the gallery, we saw a couple of pieces on a pedestal with a little “Touch Me” tag on the side, and the kids immediately headed over to play with a small, pretty diorama adorned with cut-out pictures and natural materials like twigs, feathers, and grass as well as a box of colorful blocks. It held their interest for about two minutes.  There were a few more interactive pieces hanging on walls (designated with the “Touch Me” tag), but they were too high for the kids to reach and didn’t offer much for them to do anyway. Needless to say, we were disappointed.

When I asked the woman working there about it, she explained that they don’t actually know what the exhibit will include until the last minute when the jury selects the works from the pool of entries submitted. And looking back at the press materials, I realize they didn’t really promise what I pictured… but it just sounded like it could have been all that and more.  All was not lost though. We enjoyed a stroll by the water and the gorgeous day, and the kids got an ice cream treat before heading back home.

In short: I won’t say that you shouldn’t see “Play” — there are some whimsical works to see, just not much to touch — but I wouldn’t make a trip to The Torpedo Factory just for the exhibit.  If you’re in Old Town and have time to spare, pop in for a look. But plan for some other fun activities, too.

“Play” is on exhibit in The Art League Gallery at the Torpedo Factory through April 2. Admission is free.



Filed under All ages, Art, Free, Virginia, Weekdays, Weekend

10 Responses to Minimal Play at The Art League’s New Exhibit

  1. Nicole

    Thanks very much for the follow up on this exhibit. I was planning to take my 2 year old because it sounded so great, but Alexandria is a long trip for us and I’m glad to know my time will probably be better spent elsewhere. I’ve never left a comment on your blog before but now that I am I MUST tell you what a wonderful resource it is! I look forward to the weekend round up every Friday and often plan my weekends based on the best sounding items you have listed. I especially appreciate that you include the ages each activity is recommended for. It really helps to sort out the “best” activity for my family!

    • Linda @ KidFriendly DC

      Thanks so much for your nice feedback, Nicole. Always great to hear that my blog prompts fun adventures for parents and kids. 🙂 Good decision to skip “Play” – a 2-yr-old probably wouldn’t get much out of it.

  2. Rebecca

    So good to know! I’m excited to check out the hirshorn’s suprasensorial exhibit, which is interactive (reportedly).

  3. Karen

    I am so happy you posted this! We went on Saturday and it was a total bust for us. I knew it would be bad when the information desk people had no idea what I was talking about. When I found the room the guy said, “well.. it’s not really for kids, but more an interpretation of play, so kid-like, but for adults.” My kids didn’t seem to mind since it was a nice day. We went to check out the ducks, eat lunch and stopped at Gravelly Point to watch the airplanes. You have restored my faith in posting this though! To be fair, their promo materials mislead me too!

  4. I was thinking of going to this too. Sorry your experience was a letdown but thanks for being honest to your readers! I love your calendars! Thanks for putting them together.

  5. Micaela

    I agree with the previous comment. I truly appreciate your honesty. I will be in Old Town next week, but I may skip this event. I am shocked that something so minimal did get so much hype. Hopefully they will improve and make the interactive kids’ exhibits even better in the future.

  6. Pingback: Supra Cool Art at the Hirshorn | KidFriendly DC

  7. Thanks for posting this. It sounded interesting in print; I’m sorry it was a let-down. But I do appreciate you saving us the disappointment!

  8. Pingback: More “Play” to Come? | KidFriendly DC

  9. Pingback: The National Museum of Health and Medicine: Fascinating, but not for the Faint of Heart | KidFriendly DC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *