Someone once told me that little kids are like puppies, older children like cats. The younger children want as much of your attention as they can get, and then beg for more. The older ones are often happy to have you put food out, and then leave them alone. Lately, my stepson has been acting more and more cat-like around me. And I’m not a cat person, if you know what I mean. So our relationship has been feeling a bit strained. At least from my perspective. Something tells me he’s not perseverating over is as much as I am.
When I heard the Columbus Museum of Art’s Center for Creativity would be hosting an exhibition of Lego-inspired art, Think Outside the Brick, I hoped it might be a way for me and George to reconnect. Today we checked out the show and then joined others for Dispatchwork, an international guerilla art project in which people fill cracks in the urban landscape with Lego constructions. My family’s participation in this happening helped us achieve a degree of togetherness I’d been longing for.
The moment we stepped out of the museum, we were engaged, together, in the project. While we planned to get in the car and ride across town to a location we had in mind to create our work, we were immediately drawn to a spot in the museum’s parking lot. We examined the spot, did a bit of minor preparation to the ground by shifting some gravel around, and discussed how we would go about our brick laying. Then we got to work.
Even with a predetermined course of action, there were decisions to be made along the way. At what point was the work complete? Did figures and/or constructions made to look like real things have a place in the piece? Should we leave it in place or photograph the piece, gather the bricks, and create something new in a different location? Would our structures sustain a strong wind or rainstorm?
Ultimately, we dismantled our piece at the museum lot and moved on to our original destination, a building downtown that my husband leases and rents to musicians and artists in the community. We figured that, even if no one else saw them, those folks would appreciate our offerings.
George and I set to work repairing a big crack at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the building while my husband went inside to check on some things. We talked about what we were doing and how we could do it differently. While we didn’t always agree, we listened to each other’s ideas, with patience, something which, if I’m honest, I haven’t been as great about modeling for him lately as I’d like. I had an artistic vision for what we were working on, and sometimes I felt George’s ideas would corrupt it. A few times I had to consciously remind myself that the product we produced mattered less than the time we spent together. The fact that it was 70 degrees and sunny in November, in Central Ohio, made this dramatically easier!
Another thing that helped me persevere, as dorky as it might sound, was the realization that we were practicing some key 21st century skills that related right back to issues he and I had been having at home, namely, communication and collaboration. As I became conscious of this, I started to feel like sitting on the sidewalk playing with Legos with George was really important. We weren’t just working on getting along better as a family, we were building our capacity to be contributing members of a global community.
Through our work, we saw how our actions could physically change the landscape. But, as a parent and art educator, I also saw how playing with Legos could change the dynamics of human behavior, not least my own.
*Note: I could write an entire blog post about how Think Outside the Brick relates to trends in museum education and efforts to engage museum visitors through more interactive and transformational exchanges. I’m saving that for some other time. Bottom line, the show is great and if you are in town, I definitely recommend it.