If a child came home from a school trip one day and said, "Mummy, I danced my way to Mondriaan today" you'd be justified in thinking they'd had one too many bottles of fizzy pop. But that's exactly what I did and all I drank was tap water! It's day two of my Churchill Fellowship (see the Intro) and already I've found a brilliant example of how play and learning can come together in a powerful mix.
This is the Gemeente Museum in The Hague by Dutch architect Berlage. The linear galleries are beautifully lit white boxes with natural daylight from an internal courtyard which lights the art works in a fairly conventional manner. But, in the basement, a sequence of artificially-lit black boxes provide the setting for some very unconventional and very serious play.
The Wonderkamers are aimed at kids between 12-16 - the age group characteristically difficult to please in museums. Through a very clever mix of digital and physical games the curators have proven that it's possible to have a lot of fun while you learn stuff. And I for one will never forget dancing the Boogie-Woogie with Mondriaan.
Did you know all those lines and colour blocks were inspired by New York skyscrapers and the strict geometrical rhythms of Boogie Woogie tunes?
Here you get to feel the rhythm of the music, follow the steps and every time you make a mistake (which was often in my case), you get a Jackson Pollock splat all over the clean lines of the Mondriaan. It's fun, it's physical and it's memorable. I'll be posting again about this amazing kids museum but for now I'm still tapping my feet to the boogie woogie and I'll never look at a Mondriaan painting in the same way again.