The changes at Arizona Museum for Youth are evident the moment you step through the door. A seven-month construction project has brightened the lobby with a skylight and lightened up first impressions at this art and play space devoted to sparking creativity and imagination.
“The entryway people love. It used to be like a cave when you entered, and your eyes had to adjust,” says museum spokeswoman Latonya S. Jordan-Smith.
Three protruding bubbles now pop out of the lobby wall like bulging fish eyes, giving visitors an immediate peek at the art that awaits them on the other side. (Currently, those exhibitions are “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience,” a collection of memorabilia that details Arizona’s baseball history dating back to 1909, and “Sounds Like Art,” a funky show with a spinning disco ball, an x-ray video station and a DJ booth where you can play music by passing your hands through six laser beams.)
The dust now cleared and construction barricades gone, the museum is putting its freshly made-over face forward. Here’s what else is new:
• ArtVille, the colorful, cushiony-surfaced village for tots up to age 4, has expanded by more than 800 square feet. The renovation includes updates to the miniature town’s Living Room, Kitchen and Garden spaces; a new Tot Square with age-appropriate artworks placed at kid-eye level; art discovery boxes for older siblings; additional seating for the Artful Tales room’s literacy and art program; and new musical instruments and a costume dress-up area for the Performing Arts room. There’s also a new classroom for the museum’s popular “Parent-Tot Music Time” and “Small Snaps: Parent and Child Photography” workshops.
• ArtZone Gallery, an activity space for kids age 5 and older, has expanded beyond its original borders into the area on the other side of the lobby bubbles and into artmaking studios on the backside of the exhibition galleries.
“There are a lot more opportunities for hands-on artmaking now, throughout the museum,” says Jordan-Smith.
Children will be able to mimic the art displayed in galleries, experimenting with the same materials the artists used in laid-back, open-ended activities they can easily pick up and put down — things like grid-drawing at an easel, capturing themselves on video or trying to replicate the intricately detailed Etch-a-Sketch portraits of artist Robert Gates on their own Etch-a-Sketch screens.
• Roaming art stations: “We’ve built some mobile activity stations that can move throughout the museum and be set up to offer different activities,” says Jordan-Smith.
• After nearly a year of non-existence, the museum’s gallery shop will reopen in new digs behind the front desk, with all new products and gifts.