Kids get inspired at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts

I love to visit the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA) in Wilmington with my kids for a couple of different reasons. For one thing, its manageable size makes it the perfect place to dip your own (and your kids’) toes into explorations of contemporary art. If you’ve got an hour, you can easily see most of all of what’s on display.

The exhibitions in this non-collecting museum change often and also are, in my experience, very diverse and well curated. There are always clear explanations for each work of what the artist is trying to accomplish – something I think is important when looking at contemporary art, which can be abstract, challenging, or just plain mystifying. An added bonus is that DCCA often showcases the work of regional artists, which means that sometimes the work reflects places or themes that are familiar. For example, on one visit we saw photographs of Philadelphia that included landmarks my boys recognized.

My family was especially inspired recently when we stopped in and saw a really amazing exhibit of large “drawings” made entirely of duct tape. What was especially cool was that several of the images were of famous monuments, including two I’ve visited, the Taj Mahal and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

This 2102 drawing by Joseph Girandola, is made entirely of duct tape and is called Amore mio... ti manco

Image courtesy of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, All rights reserved. Joseph Girandola, Amore mio… ti manco?, 2012, duct tape on canvas. Please click on photos to see full-size images

So when I saw that the DCCA would be hosting a free make-art-with-duct-tape workshop for families, I knew that Teddy and I would have to check it out so that he could try his hand.

And make art he did. The program took place in the center’s large classroom space where dozens of children worked at long tables to create their own duct tape masterpieces. Teddy took a board and set to work as soon as we got there.

Painting with duct tape - Teddy is making a cave that a bat lives in

While he was creating a “painting” of a cave where a bat lived using strips of tape, I checked out some of the wall art, including a large mural that everyone was invited to work on (this was the perfect place to stick all of the leftover scraps of tape, so that nothing went to waste).

A duct tape mural is a great way to use up all the extra scraps

Another communal project was a reproduction of the Mona Lisa.

The Mona Lisa in duct tape - see her mysterious smile?

Teddy’s piece included lots of color and a bit of 3-D texture as well. The tape was a little tricky to work with, but we discovered that the natural bumps and creases could be part of the art.

Art with duct tape is bumpy and tactile

When he finished his masterpiece, he had to sign and title it. (He called it Morning Sleep).

The artist signs and titles his work

And then, before we left, he worked with the little girl next to him to make his own duct tape bow tie, which I’m sure every sharp-dressed seven-year-old will be wearing next season.

The things you can make with duct tape!

In the DCCA lobby there was even more art going on, as children were invited to add their own bits of tape and cardboard to what looked like a giant spaceship, but may have just been an abstract sculpture.

Duct tape and cardboard sculpture at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts

I really loved that the center made a direct connection between art hanging on its walls and the materials used to create it. And it was so inspiring to be reminded that everyday found objects can be used to create such beautiful things.

By the way, did you know that they make glow-in-the-dark duct tape? I truly feel like I learn something new every day.

Travel-with-kids tips

  • The Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts is open every day except Monday. Admission is free. You can see the inspirational exhibition “Rise and Fall: Monumental Duct Tape Drawings” until February 10, 2013.
  • Ask at the front desk for children’s activities such as scavenger hunts or handouts with questions to ask.
  • In addition to free family programming, DCCA offers art classes for children and teens as well as summer camps. Learn about upcoming programs by signing up for their email newsletter – the form is available at the bottom of each page on their site.
  • The DCCA is located about two minutes from I-95 on the Wilmington waterfront. It’s walking distance from the Delaware Children’s Museum and also just a few minutes from the Petersen Urban Wildlife Refuge. There are several family dining options nearby.
  • Need tips on how to take your kids to an art museum? I’ve got those.
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