Stroller Tours at ahha
Callister and I enjoyed the stroller museum tour at ahha
I grew up in Tulsa, so visits to Philbrook and Gilcrease are integrated into my childhood memories. Despite having gone to the fabulous Art Institute in Chicago and even the iconic Louvre in Paris, in full disclosure I must admit, I am not an experienced or knowledgeable art person. I enjoy going to museums, but I’m also a little intimidated by the experience, especially in the company of more cultured art connoisseurs. The irresistible lure of a new concept, a stroller museum tour brought me and my grandson to ahha on a Thursday afternoon.
There is a great area in the center of the galleries for toddlers to play and comfortable chairs for nursing mothers.
The idea of taking infants and toddlers to a museum seemed ambitious, but I was intrigued by the possibility of indulging in a bit of culture while simultaneously spending time with my grandson. Callister recently turned twenty months and he’s a very active toddler, but I was assured that although the tour is focused on the adults, it’s also child friendly. I brought plenty of snacks, books and toys along just in case of a meltdown. My motto with children is Be Prepared (thanks Boy Scouts!)! Seeing the carpeted area with baskets of toys in the middle of the two exhibit rooms was reassuring. The play area was in sight the entire time, and I fully expected my grandson to spend the majority of the 45-minute tour there. I was wrong. He seemed interested and even appeared to be listening to the discussion. Maybe he was in an afternoon sweet, calm spot, but for my sake we’ll pretend he’s an art prodigy.
Callister took his “assignment” seriously and was happy to be given a pad of paper and pencil to write his impressions.
The tour was led by Adrienne, the Exhibition and Public Programs Manager, who was quite knowledgeable about art and also obviously familiar with the needs of young children. There were two other stroller groups on the tour, and it was surprisingly calm with two infants and a toddler. The tour was interactive, stretching my brain and taking me out of my comfort zone more than I was expecting. Despite my art knowledge insecurity, I soon felt at ease as Adrienne set a comforting, casual tone. She led us through exercises that proved challenging and interesting. We were given a pink construction paper heart and a lavender paper heart with the instructions to take five minutes to walk around the room and lay the pink heart at the painting or display we liked best and then the lavender one at a display or painting we didn’t understand or had questions regarding. The exercise inspired me to look at everything more carefully, and it was great to have the pieces explained and learn more about the artists.
Callister loved this mixed media piece by Erin Shaw! I’m guessing because of the colors and the bird!
The next activity made me mentally sweat a bit. I’m supposed to be a writer, but I’ve never been good at fiction or writing under pressure. For this activity we were in the Altars of Reconciliation exhibition, a collection of work by three Southeast Native artists, Bobby C. Martin, Erin Shaw and Tony Tiger. We were assigned the task of picking a person in a display and creating a story about who the person might be and what their story was. It stretched my imagination in a way I discovered I liked.
I chose this from Erin Shaw’s Protect Us From Ruin work in mixed media. My story was maybe a little dark, but I was drawn to this woman and enjoyed imagining her life.
The final exercise was my favorite. The exhibit titled Found on Side of Road, featuring the wonderful photography of Jack Bryant, is located in the Gallery. We were asked to pick one untitled photograph, there were many to choose from, and give it our own title. I couldn’t choose just one because I found his photography captivating. I plan to go back sans toddler to spend more time in this area. By this part of the tour my grandson’s attention was beginning to wane, and ahha’s claim that the stroller tour understood the needs of babies and toddlers was put to the test. Callister’s sippy cup leaked a large puddle of water onto the floor. I pulled out a diaper wipe and had him make a futile attempt at cleaning it up, but they assured me it wasn’t a problem and immediately sent for someone to mop it up. Yes, they are true to their word: no embarrassment, no problem.
Adrienne explaining the exhibit to the stroller group.
Included in the $10.95 admission fee for the stroller tour is also entrance to the rest of the museum. On the second floor is The EXPERIENCE and on the third floor is the Artist Studio which has an area with blocks and giant Legos where the kids can play. Callister loved playing and it gave me a chance to sit down and rest. The EXPERIENCE might be suited best for kids a little older; we peeked in and found it to be a little intense for my grandson. It’s a fully immersive art installation, a multi-media event that employs all the senses. It looked fascinating but also a little too much stimulation for a not-quite two-year-old who was ready for a nap. Older kids would love it I’m sure!
We went to the third floor after the tour for some block and giant Legos play time
Stroller tours will be held on the second Thursday of each month at 1:00 P.M. Exhibitions change every few months, so this is an outing you can repeat. AHHA is located in the arts district north of downtown Tulsa, 101 East Archer Street. Admission is $10.95 for adults, $6.95 for children 3-17 and free for two and under. Visit their website or Facebook page for hours, exhibit information, to learn more about artists and special events.