The McNay paints a new picture with the opening of an interactive art studio

There are two types of museums: those that don’t allow touch and those that do. Almost without fail, touching museums teach science and untouching museums teach art (or most likely require visitors to learn the art themselves). Luckily for San Antonians and tactile learners, the McNay Art Museum is closing that gap with the unveiling of its new interactive studio on Friday, July 1.

The McNay is constantly developing new ways to improve accessibility, and this initiative makes those efforts explicit, integrating permanent collection items with more interactive layouts. Unlike many other well-meaning but narrow-minded art museums with interactive kids-only programs, the McNay has made this whimsical and introspective space appealing to all ages.

“Visitors [of all ages] are welcomed into…a site-specific experience infused with surreal natural elements, curiosity-driven interactives, and personalized interaction with the collection,” says Meredith Doby, Vice President of Exhibitions and Head of design team, DoSeum Design Studios, in a press release.

Even for an art museum, that’s a lot of abstraction. The studio is one room—relatively small by museum standards—with a projection screen, built-in display cases with original artwork, and workstations with prompts and cards. Prompts are conversation starters (“What does home mean to you?”) that could become teachable moments, potential connection points on first dates, or something cryptic to discover of the last people who sat down to think.

The space will change with each new artist in the studio; this inaugural configuration is done in collaboration with Soomin Jung Remmler, a landscape artist based in San Antonio. Fluorescent collage-like works lend themselves to the collage-like thoughts that on-the-fly art education tends to encourage. The station that asks for the direction of the house is equipped with tiny cards for the revelations. Another workstation asks visitors to mix and match small art prints on a floor plan to create their own exhibit. A wall covered in greenery contains hidden doors to shadow boxes with surreal scenes depicting the artist’s response to the prompt.

“I created the small village and a house in response to the Studio’s fantastic foliage walls, as they remind me of the nature that exists within all of us,” Remmler said in the press release. “Miniature houses, stars, moon and origami airplanes symbolize home as the place where the heart is.”

The studio is planning more community programs, including artist-led workshops, but for now it is self-guided. Remmler’s work will anchor the space through 2022.

The interactive studio is open to all museum visitors from July 1. Tickets ($20 adult, various other tiers) are available at mcnayart.org. There are free entry windows every Thursday and every first Sunday of every month.

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