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Art to Heart

Interacting with Art

A typical museum exhibit, says Slavko Milekic, “does everything to prevent children from exploring the works of art in the way that’s appropriate for their age.”

Children explore the world in a very different way from adults, “and the younger they are, the more true this is,” says this associate professor of cognitive science and visual design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. “They need to create an experience. They need to interact physically with the environment and try to modify it, to explore it, to see what happens if I do this and do that. And none of this is possible in a traditional museum.”

A focus of Milekic’s work as a researcher and designer is to create applications that transfer knowledge and ideas in a child-friendly way. One example is Kiddy Face, a touch-screen computer application that enables children to manipulate works of art. It’s installed in the ArtSparks children’s space at Louisville’s Speed Art Museum. (You can see it in use in both Program 1 and Program 7 of Art to Heart.)

Milekic has also investigated gesture-based applications, which allow the viewer to change what he or she is looking at by simply moving a hand. He installed such a “gesture gallery,” as he calls it, at the Phoenix Art Museum. “It consists of a small platform where a child can just stand and, with simple gestures, browse the whole collection in an open space—which is also important because this becomes social interaction,” he explains. “Anything that one person does is available to anyone else—if you walk into the room and you see that this person is browsing the gallery content magically, just by waving their hand, then you want to do it, too.”

Find Out More

  • Milekic’s web site at the University of the Arts includes extensive information about his research, including online demonstrations of the activities included in KiddyFace.

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