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New Downtown Children’s Museum Opens This Weekend

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Aired 4/19/09

(Photo: The new Children's Museum in downtown San Diego. Ana Tintocalis/KPBS. )

The brand new Children's Museum in downtown San Diego makes its debut this weekend after running into some money problems several years ago. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis more.

The new Children's Museum is a three-story concrete and steel building right next to Convention Center. Inside weird, wacky and colorful art pieces hang from the ceilings and walls. There's a giant inflatable sculpture that some kids say looks like Q-tips stuck on top of a cake. Other pieces also make interesting sounds....

That's a vacuum with a harmonica strapped to its nozzle. A series of these musical vacuums line one of the museum's corridor. Director Rachel Teagle says the new Children's Museum is all about having fun with visual art.

Teagle: Fun is our first and most important goal. If the artwork isn't fun if you don't have a good time while you're here, we've failed. But at the same time, we're a museum. We're and educational institution. And every single one of those fun art works also have a real serious intent behind them.

That's because the museum is one of a few in the country that commissions works from contemporary artists. One exhibit is called 'No Rules Except....Yard.' It's a pink room full of trampoline-like mattresses with pillows in the shape of tires. Its a tribute to local artist Alan Kaprow who created installation pieces that requires people to be inside the artwork.

This tribute piece is created by artist Brian Dick. On this day he's sewing together some fabric for the installation. The idea is for kids to bounce around and have fun throwing soft objects.

Dick: The shape of the pillows as tires are really perfect play things. There's that and I think also just this idea of one giant bed and a giant pillow fight. I think kids feel simultaneously safe and also free in that room.

In addition to that room, there are a number of studios for toddlers and teens to create their very own art pieces -- either out of clay or old toy parts. There are also classrooms for kids to learn more about contemporary art. Teagle says the museum will offer weekly art classes, an after-school program and summer camp.

Teagle: As the schools face budget cuts it's the arts that is the first to go...so its become really important to us to focus on being sure that there is somewhere in San Diego where children can have early expsoure to the visual arts.

Six years ago the museum was homeless while officials waited on funding to finish the building. A gift from Qualcomm's Irwin and Joan Jacobs brought it back to life. The museum still needs to raise five million dollars to cover construction costs. 

Ana Tintocalis, KPBS News.

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