What does chartreuse smell like? What sounds does fuchsia make? What does turquoise feel like?
These quirky questions were the basis for the new exhibit Synesthesia at the Fred Jones Junior Museum of Art in Norman, where admission is always free! Created by the masterminds behind Factory Obscura, Synesthesia is an immersive, interactive art experience exploring color. Inspired by the color and textural elements of the permanent collection of the Fred, the exhibit invites visitors to open their senses to gently touch, listen, crawl and discover.
You may recall that the first time my kids visited Factory Obscura they could not stop asking the incredulous question: “We can actually touch the art?!?”
So when I told them we were visiting a new exhibit created by the same artist team, they knew exactly what to expect — the
unexpected! — and couldn’t wait to get there.
Each section of Synesthesia represents a different color, and each is perfectly unique. My kids’ favorite part was the fuchsiaworld, where they played pink “drums” made out of buckets. I could tell that making unabashed noise in an art museum felt both rebellious and exciting to them (and the same may have been true of the adults!)
I loved the turquoise section, where walking through an undulating tunnel full of blue hues and varying textures all around felt a bit like swimming under the sea. In the lavender section, we had fun discovering several unexpected objects covered in purple cloth, like an ironing board and folding chair deconstructed into multiple pieces. Hanging satchels of lavender meant our senses of smell was also awakened in this space.
Just outside the entrance to the exhibit stands a case full of the artists’ renditions or small-scale replicas of the pieces inside Synesthesia. My kids spent quite a bit of time looking over and discussing each and contemplating how the artists turned their original ideas into the larger-than-life exhibit. I loved watching their wheels turning as they considered the math, science, teamwork, perseverance and little bit of magic required to bring Synesthesia to life.
My favorite part of experiencing Synesthesia was the laughter and wonder the exhibit inspired — not just in my kids, but in me, too! I lost track of the number of times we said, “Wow!” or “You guys HAVE to come see this!” For my kids, it was a beautiful reminder that art and creativity do not belong in a box — and also underlying lessons about the beauty to be found in new and diverse ideas and experiences and the value of inclusion. For me, I loved the reminder to slow down and take a break from my adult responsibilities to revel in awe and childlike wonder.
With all the challenges and chaos swirling in our world today, sometimes a break to enjoy to beautiful and awe-inspiring is exactly what I need to feel refreshed and able to move forward.
Admission to the Fred always free, which means especially if you have younger kids, it’s easier to justify shorter experiences or enjoy the various galleries in the museum over multiple visits. On our trip to see Synesthesia, we also visited the collection of French Impressionism, especially because several artist names are already familiar to my kids from their school art classes, as well as several special exhibitions on display. The Fred also offers fun ways to engage kids, like a game of art Bingo or a seasonal scavenger hunt to search for art related to different times of the year.
Synesthesia will be open through June 2023. I know my family will be making multiple trips to see both Synesthesia and explore more of the Fred!
Erin Page is managing editor of MetroFamily Magazine, an award-winning writer, a lifelong resident of OKC, wife to Jordan and mom to Addie, Hutch and Weston. She enjoys exploring our city, cooking and hiding from her kids to eat chocolate.