Met’s 81st Street Studio Provides Hands-On Learning for Kids and Caregivers
Kids and their caregivers can now experience the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a new, hands-on way.
The new 81st Street Studio, now open in the Met’s Ruth and Harold D. Uris Center for Education, is an interactive science and art play space that will give children the opportunity to create new experiences in the museum.
Through seven different interactive stations and a children’s library, visitors will be able to explore and create, and new experiences will be available on a rotating basis. Inaugural activities include woodblock carving, drum making, musical stations and building stations.
Families can take their learning beyond the walls of the Met: pick up a Met Field Guide, which will guide you through exploring the museum and neighboring Central Park.
The guide encourages young visitors to learn about the scientific aspects of the Met’s collection and Central Park while collecting stickers and badges.
The 81st Street Studio was designed by KOKO Architecture + Design, led by husband-and-wife team Adam Weintraub and Mishi Hosono, with the Met’s youngest visitors in mind.
But the studio’s child-friendly and child-oriented design doesn’t come at the expense of creative architecture or design.
“We don’t oversimplify for kids,” Hosono says. “They’re the most sophisticated clients.”
One way that the studio was designed with kids in mind is through the presence of “escape valves” throughout the space. There are no dead-ends in the studio’s pathways, so kids can peel off, circle around and move about the space as they please.
“If you’re a child, and you’re working your way through the space, you can choose this path,” Weintraub says. “But if this path feels a little too much for you right now, there’s always an easier way to go.”
While the space is ideal for children ages three to 11, Weintraub and Hosono say they designed the space as an ideal place for intergenerational learning. Caregivers, parents, older siblings and more can find a space for learning in the studio.
Throughout the studio, visitors can participate in hands-on learning experiences through both analog and digital elements. Weintraub said trying to “dissolve the difference between digital and analog” was one of the challenges that came with designing the space.
“Kids are attracted to digital, because that’s their world,” Weintraub says. “So it’s almost like cooking: you have to put in just the right amount and balance it.”
Additionally, the studio isn’t meant to be a spot for a one-time visit. Weintraub says he hopes the space creates “lifelong museum goers” that have new experiences each time they visit.
“I’ve been thinking about it as a place that kids can come back to, even as they get older and as their abilities change,” Weintraub says. “They’ll interact with it in an entirely different way.”
Max Hollein, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, says the new studio aligns with the museum’s goals of education and community engagement.
“Education is a critical – and very exciting – part of the Met’s mission, and we are proud to open the extraordinary new 81st Street Studio and further advance our role as a tremendously engaging resource for local and global communities,” Hollein said in a press release.
Heidi Holder, the museum’s chair of education, says the 81st Street Studio advances how the museum engages with its visitors.
“It positions the Museum as a place where visitors can make delightful discoveries, take risks and ask questions, activities that are imperative to reimagining the future role of museums in our communities,” Holder said in a press release.
Weintraub says he hopes visitors, especially young visitors, leave the 81st Street Studio thinking that museums are fun spaces that they’re welcome to be in.
“I want them to come in here and say, ‘this is for me,’” Weintraub says. “The idea is that this is their space.”