Lets talk car painting. As The New Children’s Museum First-Timers wander into our outdoor studio, and curiously round the corner, they often let out a cry of unforeseen wonderment when humbly seated before them is a car. A real-live-bumpy-curvy-multi-colored-crater-laden-VW-Bug. Most do a starry-eyed zombie walk straight for the paint buckets, only to be intersected by paint-o-phobic parents or apron waving studio facilitators. As we beg the children to “only paint the car…you know…not the walls or the floor [enter comic relief], or your brother, or your hair…,” they continue to gaze at the vehicle before them, mesmerized and blankly nodding yes to our pleas of a clean studio. Next usually comes our disclaimer aside to the parents: “Now, just so you know, while the paint is water based, it can sometimes leave light stains.” Visitors, please forgive us for the ambiguity of this sentiment. Let it be known, it’s better to be safe than sorry: dress your children in old clothes when they come to the museum.
While we all painted endless color wheels in our junior high art courses, when it comes to our Bug color-theory is often slightly more complex than blue leads to green leads to yellow leads to orange. Particularly in these winter months when the sun is absent and the car is in a constant state of sogginess (that is winter months when it isn’t 95 degrees outside…which are hard to come by these days), choosing colors for the car becomes a fine science. Although we may think that switching from yellow paint to blue paint might be a breeze (yellow and blue make green, right?), we often forget about the orange coat that tauntingly lies below the yellow, and of course orange mixed with blue creates a mucky brown. So, dear children, please understand when we deny your request to paint with red and green and purple all at once. We are only trying to preserve the incessant beauty of the Bug.
Recently I have wondered if I am perhaps a bit overbearing in my attempts at humor with the kids. My warnings to kids that a second piece of clay requires a knock-knock joke are often received with an awkward, “I don’t know any…” pause, pause, and a joke-less hand off of the clay. Perhaps I am far too tumultuous when I approach children and ask what they are creating, as many such comments are met with sheepish hiding behind parents’ legs. Yet, there is one unrelenting zinger that I will forever keep in my storehouse of NCM chistosos. Many times each day, car-amazed children question, “Is this a real car?” here comes the zinger: “Of course it’s a real car. It’s my car. I parked it here this morning and people just started painting it. How ever will I drive home?” Please kids, humor me with at least a smile. So, take these car painting lessons to heart, and join us for joke-filled-color-theory-old-clothes-car painting to the tune of our magical-music-box.
—Lindsay Preston, Studio Facilitator