Chrysler Museum’s new interactive ‘Wonder Studio’ mixes art, technology and families

The museum's education department spearheaded the new immersive space

Visitors to the Chrysler Museum of Art can now walk through the "Art-quarium," an immersive cluster of artworks highlighting the human form in the museum's new "Wonder Studio" (Joshua Weinstein/Southside Daily)
Visitors to the Chrysler Museum of Art can now walk through the “Art-quarium,” an immersive cluster of artworks highlighting the human form in the museum’s new “Wonder Studio.” The blue pole, bottom center, plays an audio recording on some of the artworks. (Southside Daily)

NORFOLK — After years of planning and focus groups, the Chrysler Museum of Art unveiled its new family-friendly, technology-driven art education gallery on Saturday.

Dubbed the “Wonder Studio,”  the interactive gallery is rooted in the Chrysler’s collection and was designed with children in mind.

The studio consists of three components; the drawing studio, the “colorscape” and the “art-quarium.”

The studio is a space where families can visit without worry of children touching the art, said Anne Corso, director of education for the Chrysler.

“In our focus groups for this project, we heard over and over that families were scared to bring their kids here” because they were worried about their children touching the art, Corso said.

Drawing studio

The drawing studio is a series of interactive touch screens that allow visitors to add a bit of their own flair to some of the Chrysler’s masterpieces.

Drawings or collages created by visitors on the studio's touch panels are displayed on two large screens nearby (Joshua Weinstein/Southside Daily)
Drawings or collages created by visitors on the studio’s touch panels are displayed on two large screens nearby. (Southside Daily)

“The inspiration for the drawing studio is the classic art class, where you walk in and have a figure model there,” Corso said. “A blank canvas can be intimidating, so we provided images of Chrysler artworks for people to use as their canvas.”

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Visitors can also create their own digital collages on the touchscreens, and those works are then displayed on large screens nearby.

Art-quarium

The art-quarium is exactly what it sounds like — a display of art that looks like an aquarium. It contains paintings, photographs, and sculpture from the Chrysler’s collection.

At the center of the Chrysler Museum of Art's new "Wonder Studio" is the "Art-quarium," a small, immersive display of art highlighting the human form. In the far right, Museum Educator for the Wonder Studio, walks on the interactive "colorscape" canvas. (Joshua Weinstein/Southside Daily)
At the center of the Chrysler Museum of Art’s new “Wonder Studio” is the “Art-quarium,” a series of see-through cases displaying art that highlights the human form. In the far right, Museum Educator for the Wonder Studio Maegan Douglas walks on the interactive “Colorscape” canvas. (Southside Daily)

Like an aquarium, the artwork is sealed behind glass and objects seemingly float at varying heights, which allows kids to see the artwork up close, Corso said. Walking through the display, visitors become surrounded by artwork from the Chrysler’s collection.

Colorscape

The colorscape is big white canvas where people can paint with their bodies. Well, sort of.

The colorscape consists of a three-dimensional, u-shaped platform with two cameras perched above. When a person walks on the platform, the floor illuminates with color, reacting to that person’s movements. Accompanying sound effects create an immersive experience that combines touch, visuals and sound as visitors paint the floor with their bodies.

Ashley Gillis and her two-year-old daughter frolic in the Chrysler Museum's "colorscape" interactive, producing vibrant pools of colored light in their wakes (Joshua Weinstein/Southside Daily)
Ashley Gillis and her two-year-old daughter frolic in the Chrysler Museum’s “colorscape” interactive, producing vibrant pools of colored light in their wakes (Southside Daily)

Ashley Gillis, a mother and local blogger, said the interactive gallery is something that she’s been looking for.

“In the past, I was a little nervous to bring my kids here, because I have a 2-year-old and she’s all over the place,” Gillis said. “I’m excited that she can explore and have fun in a place where the art is protected.”

Which is precisely what the Chrysler sought to provide with this space.

“We wanted people to feel comfortable in here, and wanted parents to know that they’re welcome here and that there’s a space for them,” Corso said.

Corso said the human form makes for a great introduction to connecting with kids about art.

“Because your body is art — and can make art, too,” she said.

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