Art is more fun when you can climb on it!

Have you ever been to a museum or an art gallery, seen the ‘Do Not Touch’ sign and then been struck with an immediate urge to reach over the barrier when no one is looking and feel the display? Well, then this article is for you!

city museum

When I finished typing the title to this article, I swear that I just heard the worldwide community of art curators faint.

Engagement is an important factor when it comes to consumer enjoyment. If the audience aren’t interested or involved with the artwork, display or show, then chances are their enjoyment levels are going to pretty low. So what better way to increase audience engagement than to throw away the ‘Do Not Touch’ signs and let people climb all over the artwork.

And . . . I think I just heard the worldwide community of artists faint.

Yes, it is unorthodox, but it is not without substance.

The inspiration for today’s article came from an Andrew Keenan-Bolger (blogger, producer of Submissions Only and Broadway triple threat) video blog where he and a group of friends visited the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. Check it out below:

Started by artist and sculptor Bob Cassilly, The City Museum focusses on creating sculptures from recycled materials that form a mix between a playground and funhouse in an enormous old International Shoe Company building. Since its opening it has added Enchanted Caves, a World Aquarium, a Concert Space and a Big Top which features daily circus acts.

Sound complex? It is basically an entire building of sculptures and exhibits that you are allowed and encouraged to climb on and interact with in different ways.

Part of the genius of this museum is that by actively engaging with the sculptures and information that is presented, you start to appreciate and discuss them. As opposed to standing still and appreciating, you get to experience the artworks in a way that not only satisfies your visual stimuli needs, but also all your other senses.

This is increasingly important in today’s society where the way we interact with entertainment has changed. Back when art galleries and museums originally opened, we didn’t have many options for entertainment, and those that we did have were largely static such as reading the newspaper or books and listening to music. Now, the most common forms of entertainment consist of a complex and constant flow of stimuli that make us multi-task and actively participate.

Whether they are gaming consoles, computer games or watching the television while commenting on social media, all encourage a lot more involvement. As a result, our threshold for stimulus has been raised and we have been taught to process stationary stimulus very quickly and move one. Which is why this new style of museum is so exciting, because it is trying (and succeeding) to match our constant need for complex stimuli and physical engagement!

Founder David Cassilly sums up this argument, better than I ever could, with the phrase ‘City Museum makes you want to know’. And I agree.

What do you think of this new type of museum? Let me know in the comments below.