Experiencing THE EXPERIENCE
Joss and I finally made it to ahha's interactive installation
I'd been wanting to take Joss to ahha's The EXPERIENCE ever since it opened several months ago. We used to go to ahha fairly regularly for their Imagination Days, when ahha offered art activities and free admission on the third Saturday of the month. But when The EXPERIENCE opened, they quit offering Imagination Days, so we hadn't returned (free admission is a big motivator!).
But the lack of Imagination Days does not mean that ahha doesn't have some great programming, and I was lured in by a promise of pre-Halloween activities and early trick-or-treating (and an extra excuse to dress up!).
Offering the prize of best friendship to anyone who knows what my costume is supposed to be...
Before going up the elevator to The EXPERIENCE, we took time to explore the first floor gallery, which also had some interactive elements that Joss enjoyed, including an easel where visitors could write down their responses to the question, "What does it mean to think like an artist?" and colored puff balls, with each color representing a different aspect of art. Certain works had a plastic tube velcroed next to them where you could add whichever colored ball represented an element that you thought that painting most embodied. For example, was it more beautiful or thought provoking?
After this, we took the elevator up, and exited into a dark, strobe-and-black-lit hallway. Joss made the mistake of looking down the hallway to the right, at the end of which was a giant television screen showing a series of video clips. One of these was a giant eyeball, which Joss was very scared of! Thankfully, you didn't have to walk past the screen in order to get to the main parts of the exhibit (although I didn't find this out until we'd walked closer and discovered the dead end--so sorry, Joss!)
Once we turned out of sight of the giant eyeball, things went much smoother, and Joss eventually ended up really enjoying The EXPERIENCE. The first thing he loved was rolling a bowling ball up and down two piano keyboards set up next to each other. Another popular installation was the "GUM LAB," where you could get a free gumball from the machine, chew it a bit, and add it to a pair of gumball-covered school desks. (Don't worry, antibacterial sanitizer was nearby!)
Harking back to those colored balls, I would not give The EXPERIENCE the green ball for being beautiful, although it is certainly innovative and thought-provoking. It's not always a comfortable experience, but I guess the point is not to make the viewer comfortable! "Surreal" and "dreamlike" would be appropriate words. There was one room, for example, that was decorated with two metal gurneys, oversized dollar bills (in varying increments) hanging from the ceiling and empty prescription drug cannisters. There was also a telephone answered by a robotic voice, and the floor was littered with weird foam tubes (see picture on the left, below). A little cringe-y.
My favorite room is what I'd call the "weather room," which features the mannequin in the picture at the top of this post, and floating cloud-domes that are painted inside and hovering over thick, "grass" cushions. The mannequin's "dress" is a cave you can crawl into. Along the wall are a series of cabinet doors, each of which has a different installation behind it. So there were a lot of really interesting ways to engage with this room, and many things to discover! Joss's favorite was the door hiding a changing picture of Mickey from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice."
Bonus "My Little Pony" installation
There is so much to see and do in The EXPERIENCE, that I'm sure we could go back multiple times and have a new experience every time, which is probably the point :)
In addition to the first floor gallery and The EXPERIENCE, ahha also has The STUDIO, an art-making space full of any and all craft supplies you can imagine. The STUDIO is open during public hours and is included with admission; plus, enjoy STUDIO Sundays each week, when there will be art activities set up and ready for creative minds of all ages.
Have you been to The EXPERIENCE? What did you think? What did your kids think?
- 101 E. Archer St.
- Monday-Tuesday, Galleries Closed
- Wednesday-Saturday, 12-9 p.m.
- Sunday, 12-7 p.m.
- Adults: $10.95
- Children 3-17: $6.95
- Children 2 and Under: Free
- Members: Free
- Individual: $50
- Dual/Family: $75
- Contributor: $150
- And Up. Learn more here.