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Wex for Kids

Thu, Feb 17, 2011

Working at the Wex, I often find myself thinking back on my own childhood experiences with the arts in Kent, Ohio: going to art classes, seeing plays, attending concerts, learning to play an instrument. They make up some of my fondest memories. I'd like to think that kids in Columbus are making their own memories by going to the Wex, which is an amazing resource for the kids of this city.

Although many people probably don't associate the Wex with children, we actually do a lot of programming specifically for the younger crowd. As a friend of more than a few parents, including several who are raising budding artists (a shout-out to my buddies, Clinton Elementary School cartoonists Jack and Aidan Rice!), I want to encourage Columbus-area adults and the kids in their lives to visit the Wex. We have some outstanding events coming up in the next few months.

Our first family theater show of the year, Baobab, has masks, puppets, and live West African music. Baobab emphasizes an informal "village atmosphere," so a little talking from kids in the audience is no problem; feel free to bring your littlest, squirmiest kids. The performers engage the audience in this tale about a boy's quest for water in a West African village. Details on the show, presented in Mershon Auditorium March 11–12, are here. You won't want to miss the free Jeni's ice cream and puppet crafts after the Saturday show.

Also upcoming, the best-named event of the year, The Tragical Life of Cheeseboy, comes to the Wex from Adelaide, Australia. I mean, really, how can you not love the title of this show? Basically, this show is about a boy alone on a journey. Cheeseboy's home planet has been reduced to a bubbling fondue, and he's stranded on Earth without his parents. The fantastical show, which takes place under a tent with the audience seated on rugs, utilizes magic lantern–style shadow puppetry and ingenious "treasure boxes." Five shows for ages 7 and up will be held at the Wex May 13-15, in our intimate Black Box on Mershon Stage. I'm a huge fan of this small theater setup, and I know your kids will be, too.

If you don't really see your kid sitting through theater, maybe film is the way to go. In May the Wex hosts a month-long Charlie Chaplin retrospective with 17 Chaplin films, both lesser-known works and beloved classics. Kids who've seen Chaplin films here have enjoyed them, and even some parents are surprised by the broad appeal of this early film pioneer. Proof by anecdote: My coworker Jen says her 5-year-old daughter loved The Circus, a Chaplin film we showed at the Zoom Family Film Festival last year. Associate Film Curator Chris Stults says that the Sunday matinee on May 8, featuring City Lights and Modern Times, would be a particularly good choice for kids: "The Little Tramp character is relatable for kids. He's this little man battered about. Kids often feel powerless, so they can sympathize with the Little Tramp's fight for his own way in the world."

Another way to help expose your kids to art is to let them get their hands dirty in the Wexner Center's Summer Youth Workshops and Teen Arts Fusion Program. In these popular weeklong, half-day summer workshops, Columbus kids and teens have the opportunity to learn in a fun atmosphere from talented experts and artists with diverse backgrounds. Not your typical art camps, the workshops this year include photography, video documentary, fashion design, graphic novels, collage, video editing, interactive web design, video game creation, cartography, multimedia autobiography, and much more.

I hope to see you—and your kids—at the Wex soon. You can find me at the Taste of Belgium, the Wexner Center's café, enjoying a coffee break with my friends (they have hot cocoa and apple cider, too, not to mention sandwiches, waffles, and other kid-friendly items), or in the theater, laughing my head off at a Chaplin film and feeling like a kid all over again.

PARKING UPDATE: Construction at 15th and High. For more information click here.

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