Children's Museum

Currently Closed

Tough Art

This innovative artist residency program challenges artists and audiences to rethink their ideas of interactive museum experiences in one of the toughest venues – a children’s museum. Participating artists learn how their artworks connect with visitors outside of the typical museum environment, and what it takes to create artwork that can sustain the rigors of a hands-on environment.

Update:  Feb 2021

The Tough Art residency is one of the Children's Museum's longest running and most rewarding programs. Each year it is a pleasure to work with artists and see what they create.

COVID-19 has forced us to re-evaluate the timing of the next Tough Art residency, as we are continuing to postpone in-person activity at the Children's Museum and plan for our reopening.

We believe the magic of the Tough Art residency comes from the on-the-floor prototyping, where children interact with the art. So we are currently focused on restarting the Tough Art residency program in 2021, when we resume in-person activity at the Children’s Museum.

Thank you to all of the artists who have applied for the residency for your patience. Due to the length of the Museum’s closure, we will be asking all interested artists to reapply to express their interest when the residency returns, including applications that were kept on file from 2020.  We will let you know when the Tough Artist application window reopens, and strongly encourage you to reapply at that time.

We take great pride in supporting artists by hosting residencies, staging exhibitions and commissioning site specific art works, and we look forward to the time when we can safely restart these programs.

We will continue to explore virtual residency projects as we cultivate the best ways to connect artists and their work to our audience.

Tough Art @ Home 2020

We're so excited to announce Tough Art @ Home 2020, our first-ever virtual version of the annual Tough Art program!

The Children’s Museum's Tough Art Residency Program has offered creative, hands-on learning opportunities for our visitors since 2007. Unfortunately, the 2020 in-person residency was cancelled because of the Museum's unprecedented closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This prompted the creation of the first “Tough Art @ Home” residency. Five incredible artists have created art-making activities inspired by their creative process for you to try at home. Check out their projects here.

Tough Artists On Display in the Children's Museum:
A man works on lighted abstract pieces
Compound Ringship
A person in shadow touches a colorful wall
Cosmic Geometry
Lake Light

Owen Lowery, Cosmic Geometry, 2019
Discover a cosmic world of hidden interactions within a digital projection.

Isaac Levine, Lake Light, 2018
Lake Light is a kinetic sculpture that uses LED lights and ping pong balls propelled back and forth by fans to simulate the lights and sounds of moonlight bouncing on lake water. See new things in repetitive patterns!

Charles Sowers, Shy Lights, 2015
Circular spots of light projected on the floor move aside as people try to step into the light.

Scott Garner, Reach, 2013
Reach is a large-scale interactive mural and musical instrument. When users touch both the moon and a star (either alone or by holding hands with others) a tone is played.

Agnes Bolt & Arthur Jones, Temperamental Stairs, 2010
Temperamental Stairs uses shrieks, giggles, and other sounds to create new emotional and playful possibilities on the main staircase of the museum. Each stair triggers one sound from hourly rotating themes.

Rick Gribenas, An Obscured Neutral Moment #1, 2008
Ribbons of light twinkle on the ceiling of the walkway between the Lobby and the Art Studio. The light patterns changes gradually in response to visitors as they pass through the space.

Tough Artists On Display in MuseumLab:

Ryder Henry, Compound Ringship, 2019
Explore a miniature intricately designed space module.

Neil Mendoza, Mechanical Masterpieces, 2018
Mechanical Masterpieces is a gallery of classical art reimagined for the 21st century. Viewers can switch, disco, poke, water and inflate paintings to their heart’s content.  Photo seen at top of page.

To learn how you can apply for the Tough Artist program, click here.