There's truth to what Pablo Picasso said: "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."
With its residency program, the Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus shows you're never too young to be an artist, and you're never too old to learn a new art form. During his quarter-year residency, Chilean artist Adolfo Romero learned how to make ceramic tiles and bake them in a kiln. Romero is turning pieces designed and painted by dozens of kids during his open studio sessions into a buffalo mosaic.
Besides the buffalo being an important symbol for Colorado, Romero was inspired by Nick Estes's book Our History Is the Future, in which he wrote that during the Ice Age, "the buffalo followed the stars, and the people followed the buffalo."
Romero has been obsessed with mosaics since he visited the surreal park and gardens Park Güell in Barcelona, designed by visionary Antoni Gaudí. Inspired by that, Romero has designed hopscotch mosaics for playgrounds in his native Santiago and on Denver's own Santa Fe Drive. He loves that the hopscotch grid is universally recognized and can instantly transform an adult into a kid. He often adds symbols of Chile's indigenous Incan culture, including the mythical figures of the turtle or Kokopelli, into his work.
"I use the symbol of indigenous people, because for me it's important for the new generation to know more about the past," Romero says.
Stretching four feet by eight feet, the buffalo hopscotch he's creating will curl into a Fibonacci spiral and includes a hidden star.
"It's meaningful for me, and it's important to have the energy from kids in every piece," Romero says. "I love the freedom that they have to create."
The Children's Museum has hosted dozens of artists since 2016, beginning with Jaime Molina and his patchwork murals. Tucked away inside the museum among confetti-like spots of paint left behind by countless little artists are Nicole Banowetz's 3-D sculptures and Wes Sam-Bruce's sprawling stories. Outside, the museum just opened Adventure Forest, a massive structure that's one part jungle gym, another part aerial course, and other part art installation.
"I think as we get older, you create something, and it's just like, 'Ugh!' So that's one thing about children and art: They're just happy with the process of creating, they don't really care about messing up. I think that's something we really lose as we grow up," says Kimber Kuhl, marketing and communications manager at the museum.
"We look for different things," Kuhl says of the resident-artist program. "When we had Armando Silva here, the thing that we loved was he could just get the kids going, have buckets of paint on the floor, and he was like, 'Stick your hands in the paint and throw it around!' So that's an experience we're looking for."
While the residency program is booked through the end of the year, artists interested in applying next year can propose a project through the online application.
"I think when guests come here, it's so crazy and so busy that sometimes they miss the art, and I would love it if I saw more families stopping and taking the time to talk about the art and enjoy the art," Kuhl says.
Romero's favorite part of the museum experience has been that you can touch the exhibits.
"One thing I don't like about other museums is you cannot touch anything," he laughs. "It's kind of frustrating for me, because my kid heart is always looking to touch anything, so what I love about this museum is it's totally interactive. You can touch anything. It's in its spirit. It's a total experience."
Through September, the next resident, mixed-media artist Sara Schalliol-Hodge, will explore the way things are made through whimsical and surreal linoleum block printmaking.
Adolfo Romero's last workshops will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, June 7, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, June 14, at the Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus, 2121 Children's Museum Drive.
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