Acres of Art

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It was a Sunday in late June. The day was young just as my two boys are young. Following a night of sleep and a morning of iPad apps, William and George were in a big need of movement. Since it was relatively early, we had to head somewhere open. A destination that was ideally free would be good also. Two others in our household were in need of some exercise, too - our two springers Chief and Rumpole. They were itching to accompany us so we loaded them into the back of the SUV. (Literally loaded. They decline to jump in. We must act as their lift. Pathetic.)

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Back before the IMA made the lake and land directly off the canal a destination and part of its museum experience, I was familiar with what is now known as the The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres. No matter the season, I would often take a run around the lake after first traveling along the museum's paved paths. That run was truly a treat. As most runners can attest, the opportunity for the kind of run where time is of no consequence leads to the chance of exploration and accidental discovery of a place that just may become your favorite spot. With only the sound of my breathing and the rustle of a branch because of a small animal in the brush or amongst the trees, this place became my place. Quiet, removed and serene, it had the ability to transport the visitor out of the city and into a Narnia-like setting.

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Of course, the drawback of such a place is that it is almost always a place of solitude. Now that time is of much consequence, I rarely find myself running alongside the woods and lake. Now it is a life of children and dogs. It is a time for others to run alongside me.

And that Sunday morning in June, that is just what we did. The IMA invites visitors to interact with the art on the premises. Perhaps to lounge, linger, or watch the clouds above. For Atelier Van Lieshout's fiberglass and plywood structure Funky Bones, those twenty benches depicting a 'stylized skeleton' are "...designed for resting, climbing and picnicking."

So much for resting and picnicking but we mastered the climbing. And the running. And let us not forget the jumping with, at times, the thrill of success but often the agony of defeat as the boys either stuck a landing or didn't quite make the distance between the bone benches. Looking at art usually doesn't imply legs scrambling, arms flailing and near misses of a body collision, but when you interact with art, it surely can. Located in the park's central meadow, my boys experienced what they always had experienced once they hit that space: abandonment.
Banshees rather than art connoisseurs, they loved every minute of it. This was an example of art meeting kids or maybe kids meeting art. Accessible.Interactive.Plain old fun. We plopped down on the Chop Stick's swings for a while then climbed on, around and through Los Carpinteros' Free Basket. Sun shining, kids laughing, dogs panting. That day the woods and the lake that once was my place changed. The art with its dramatic playfulness, accessibility and entertainment value made it our place.

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