Teen Art & Science Programs: The Labs @ CLP

By Maddie Adamczyk (Senior, Hampton High School)
and Sarah Parker (Junior, Pittsburgh Obama 6-12)

Art on the Move is a class offered as part of a summer teen program at The Labs, a new teen space at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland. Educators from the Mattress Factory came in to lead the class and spoke with youth about the works and efforts of installation artists.

The Mattress Factory, located on Pittsburgh’s North Side, was once a paper, macaroni, and mattress factory  but is now home to an installation art museum.  Installation art is interactive and site-specific with works ultimately determined by the place and even the time of their creation. Most of the pieces are temporary and can be interpreted differently based on their environment.  Because most of the art is three-dimensional, viewers often feel as if they are  leaping into a world of art and discovery with kinetic learning and interaction that is engaging.

One piece of art showcased in the museum is a blue rectangle that appears to be projected in a two dimensional manner. Artist James Turrell studied perceptive psychology and lures viewers with his work.  The piece is  located in a long hallway and people are drawn to it when they approach.  Most visitors stick their hands on the piece, only to discover that their hand goes through it.  The Mattress Factory also has a room made of mirrors and polka dots that visitors can enter!  Another piece is called It’s About ME Not You, a self-representation of the artist’s life through dolls you see through a small window.  Finally, The Annex Galleries serve as an extension of the Mattress Factory and house more installation art pieces. For example, Ship of Fools: Discovery of Time, created by artist Bill Woodrow, is a room to designed to make viewers feel as if they are stuck in time; another annex installation is uses a large room to make fluid, lyrical art by scattering ping pong balls and the letters of the Arabic alphabet all over the floor and walls in an exhibit called Feminist and … by Pavastou Forouhar

In addition to discussion of art, the educators also provided materials to make scribble bots or installation boxes. Scribble bots are made of recycled parts, markers, and small battery-operated motors to make unique patterns with markers. Installation boxes are small-scaled prototypes of installation art pieces that eventually turn into real pieces to be housed in the museum. Although the teens do not have the chance to turn their boxes into full-scale art, they did get to experience this type of art in a new way. They were given multiple supply boxes with yarn, scissors, magazines, glue, stickers, buttons, and other random pieces in order to make something of their own.

This program is just one day’s worth of interactive fun that teens can have at The Labs @ CLP. There is a whole summer program of activities in addition to year-round offerings at Carnegie Library branches in Oakland, the North Side,  South Side and East Liberty. Program of The Labs@ CLP are in spaces fully-equipped with modern technology and resources for teens to use, including MacBook Airs and drawing tablets.  Disciplines available for exploration include music and audio, photography and video, design (which is mostly graphics) and makers studio, the latter of which allows teens to make technological things such as robots.   The Labs @ CLP also has three special programs for this summer as part of its Arts on the Move series.  Programs are in collaboration with  Hip Hop on Lock, the Mattress Factory and Pittsburgh Filmmakers.  Each features a  three-week workshop for teens in the sixth through twelfth grade and there are also opportunities for shorter-term projects.

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