Say ArtZeum and you might get a cockeyed look back in return.
But the Kemp Center for the Arts knows exactly what an ArtZeum is – the fusion of an art space, history corner and a children’s museum – and the 100-year-old Kemp is turning into one as it celebrates its centennial this year. It was in 1917 when the Kemp opened as the city’s first public library, a Christmas gift from Wichita Falls founding father Joseph Kemp to his wife, Flora, before it became an arts center two decades ago.
“It’s basically making art interactive,” said Kemp CEO Carol Sales of the ArtZeum, which opened May 26. “… We thought, what could we do to make it more child-friendly, yet with a respect to the arts. Then that was tied to our 100 years.”
The throwback ArtZeum pays tribute to the Kemp’s early days.
For one, young visitors will see model trains in the NorthLight Gallery, courtesy of the Lone Star Division of the Train Collectors Association, North Texas Chapter of Dallas. Children can interact with two train sets, including a Thomas the Tank Engine train and a Planes: Air and Rescue set.
“Children can push buttons and make things go,” Sales said.
They also might increase their train knowledge by stopping by the Train Station Reading Room.
Train stations withstanding, the ArtZeum will feature a sounds station, where visitors can learn about the musical instruments and songs popular when trains were in their heyday. ArtZeum-goers can go hands-on mode with instruments such as a violin and bells. They also can learn how train engineers use sounds to communicate with one another.
In another area of the Kemp, visitors can take selfies in front of a train station sign, complete with dress-up props.
Look for a poetry station, where you might throw down a rhyme or two, or write a letter or postcard – what the Kemp calls “old-school text messages.”
The ArtZeum also will feature photography by Dr. David Spencer.
Nintendo Wii gaming stations will be set up with carnival games, such as balloon darts and a shooting gallery, in keeping with the 1917 train theme, since carnivals were a popular form of entertainment at the time.
Dolls in period costumes from Victorian times will be displayed throughout the Kemp. They are part of a collection owned by Nancy L. Laird. Laird also makes her own dolls. She pours the molds, china paints, fires them in the kiln and designs the dolls’ clothing.
Kemp-goers are invited to head outside, as well, to view the Kemp’s “Vision of the Future” sculpture, packed with images about the oil boom days.
Sales said ArtZeum, with its mix of history, art and children’s museum, “is for children, and for the children at heart.” It will be on display at the Kemp through July 22
IF YOU GO
Where: Kemp Center for the Arts, 1300 Lamar St.
When: Through July 22. The Kemp’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday.