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Interactive Skin - a wall installation that invites imaginative play

The best thing about the internet is connecting with like-minded and inspirational people.

Bree Angela (designer and fabric artist) recently got in touch with me and kindly shared her latest experience in collaborating with artist Nick Cave and Faust Design Studio to create the 'Second Skin' exhibit held at the Denver Art Museum.

Bree's experiences as a designer and art educator for young children has led to a passion for creating more transformative spaces for children to explore their creative and imaginative capacities. I admire her passion and her perceptive response below.

1.Where did the inspiration for the idea of an interactive skin come from?

Nick Cave is known for his intricately sculpted Soundsuits. And, as Cave refers to them, they are "armor or second skin," they seem to protect the wearer's identity, gender, race, and class with their bright colors and wild character. One's identity is safe behind the costume giving the wearer the permission to express themselves freely without judgement. They become someone- or something-else. This was the inspiration for the 'Second Skin' interactive exhibit. Participants could decorate, tear down, and re-decorate their own Soundsuits.
Nick Cave's 'Sound Suits'

2.What did you learn while bringing the idea to fruition?

I learned that felt is a fabulous material! Kids really connect to felt and the felt board concept! There is such a familiar and wonderful tactile experience when playing in a natural soft environment. The process of choosing the best way for the children to interact in this space intuitively turned out to be an important learning experience. Keeping the pieces open ended and reversible with no extra attaching elements or particular order allowed for more energy to go in to the creations themselves. Especially, after absorbing the 'Sojourn' exhibit, which was incredibly beautiful and quite ornate! The simplicity of this space, although colorful and filled with unusual forms, allowed children and their families to express what they just experienced without any rules or limitations. It was a blank felt canvas!

3.What do you believe to be the most overlooked aspect in regards to designing for children?

I think that there is sometimes too much information, direction, and maybe too much expectation happening in designing for children. By that I mean, there needs to be more open ended design, where imagination creates the space, not vice versa. If you take a look around at some of these designs its like, is what I want you to do, here is what I want you to learn. Its already layed out in a way where the kids can see A to B. What if there were more spaces that allowed for kids to think out of the box, to explore imagination itself? I think designers should keep that in mind. Allow the children to participate in the design of the space. This encourages leadership, self expression, and endless imagination.

4.How do you think we can raise awareness of the importance of creating imaginative spaces for children in the public realm?

Creating an awareness for public imaginative spaces for children is slowly, but surely, starting to unfold. We are in a time in history where we, like the Reggio Emelia folks, can look around and see that in order to change the future for the better we need to put love and energy into the children and the way they learn. I'm hoping that the Education System and the Art Industry can continue to brainstorm and collaborate to really focus on the potential of children's imagination and learning capacities. I'm also hoping there is more exposure on artists such as Nick Cave that are community driven and act as a vessel for others, especially children, to explore their creative potentials. The more conversations about people like this will spark awareness, which will spark the movers and the shakers to bring new ideas to the public.

The exhibition installation runs until the end of March. For more information, see Denver Art Museum.

Images via Faust.


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