Oklahoma City family fun should be unpredictable.
We visit many museums, art galleries and other family fun venues throughout the year. I usually go away from them with a sense of what's unique about each and there always is something to notice that makes a place stand out. The venue we visited last weekend, though, had more unusual about it than usual.
"Is this the right address? Where's the art studio? Do you see where we're headed here?" we wondered aloud as my phone chirped out "you've arrived."
Next to a taco shop and covered with a cheerful and bright exterior, we found Factory Obscura at Current Studio, which is presenting its current exhibition, SHIFT, until Feb. 25. It's in a part of the city we don't often visit, at 1218 N. Penn. The location is unassuming, which makes art all the more surprising; nothing is tucked away behind glass. Instead, you can come on in and touch everything.
Parking is free and there's no charge for admission.
The entrance is small and draped with black cloth, mysterious but full of friendly staff who are quick to explain that there are no rules, children are welcome and there is no charge. I wasn't sure what we'd find behind the curtain but I was glad we gave it a try.
Here are three reasons to start your new year by taking your kids to see SHIFT.
Foster inspiration and creative thinking: Schools have purposefully improved their approach to be more arts-focused and recognize creative problem solving overall but there's still tremendous value in getting out to see art, the unexpected and the community that influences original thinking. Artists are on-hand at SHIFT and can point out which areas they've contributed to, what materials they used and give context for their creations. The way children think is inherently creative but I fear we shut that down too early in favor of the group opinion, the right answer or what someone else wants. "Every child is an artist," is Pablo Picasso's famous quote. The less-quoted part is what he said next: "The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." SHIFT shows that there's still space for art that doesn't come in a frame. Imagination has free reign.
It won't take up your whole day: Visiting SHIFT can feel like a quick getaway. I usually set aside a few hours when we go visit a venue. This isn't like that. The space is small and interesting. My children were happily entertained with seeing everything for about 45 minutes start to finish and that's perfect when there's a range in age or you want to do something fun with the family but your schedule doesn't allow for a full afternoon out. Going into the studio feels as though you've stepped into an alternate universe for a few minutes. There's no need to reserve in advance and there are no tickets to purchase.
What you'll find is different each week: Themes, settings and materials won't be exactly the same if you visit this week versus next week. SHIFT is open to the public Thursday through Sunday afternoons with limited hours, from noon to 6. The rest of the week, artists are busy at work. They clean and reassemble the exhibition each week; the art display changes every time. When we went, aspects of the different area included a cloudscape, crazy clocks, angry neurons, a bathroom full of tropical fish, a papasan-like beehive seat, insects on a picnic and a psychedelic neon tunnel. I don't know what will turn up next week but artists in residence are happy to show visitors their own "Easter eggs," hidden elements to each area that the average visitor might not notice. Plan to stop by again and see how it has changed.
Click here for more information about SHIFT and the community art-based movement behind Factory Obscura.
I asked each of my children which area was their favorite and they concluded that the tunnel was the best part. I'm six months pregnant and crawling through a narrow tunnel isn't really something I can do right now but I saw the entrance and the exit and it is really cool in there. I liked the crazy clocks the best but there's no guarantee you'll find those same things when you go.
Sam, my oldest, concluded that it's a fun experience overall because "you just don't know what's going to be in each area."
Plan your visit soon. The exhibition ends Feb. 25. If you're looking for other family fun ideas to include throughout the year, click here for MetroFamily's Ultimate 18 for 2018 Family Bucket List.
New Year's resolutions are great. I can plan and overplan and schedule everything for everyone but art reminds us that not everything is predictable.
I'm not sure what's coming next from the Factory Obscura artists' group but it'll be something different and amazing.