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.