Go Wild in Animal Kingdom at Newark Museum of Art
Families and kids can now learn about and celebrate the wonders of the animal kingdom from the comfort of an art museum.
The Animal Kingdom exhibition at the Newark Museum of Art teaches visitors about the different animals that inhabit the land, air and sea and how we as humans impact them through a series of immersive and interactive experiences.
Upon entering the exhibition, visitors are greeted with the intro gallery, where they can get acquainted with animals of the land, air and sea.
One of the most exciting features of this gallery is the Magic Door to Art. When visitors open the door, they’ll be greeted by a dynamic presentation of 15 different works of art featuring different animals.
The Magic Door to Art shows animals coming to life through art while also demonstrating a connection between science and art.
Showing the connection between different disciplines was a primary goal of the exhibition.
Silvia Filippini-Fantoni, deputy director of learning and engagement at the Newark Museum of Art, says the aim was to “move away from science for science’s sake” and instead “look at the integration between art and science and technology, given that our museum has all these different collections, and how we can bring them together.”
After leaving the intro gallery, visitors will fly into the world of birds in “Lost World: The Audubon Immersive Experience.” This fully immersive projection-based experience brings the animals from Audubon’s Birds of America to life.
The projections in this gallery feature dynamic versions of Audubon’s bird illustrations in their natural habitats, accompanied by a soundtrack of actual bird sounds compiled from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s database.
This room is also home to a replica of an underground cave, complete with cave paintings modeled after seven different caves from around the world. Here, visitors can play a matching game, allowing them to interact with the first known human art displaying animal subjects in a playful way.
Finally, visitors will enter the “Sketch Aquarium.” In this digital aquarium, parents and kids alike can create their own sea creatures and then scan them into the aquarium. And unlike traditional aquariums, you’re encouraged to tap the glass in the Sketch Aquarium!
In addition to teaching visitors about different animals of the land, air and sea, the Animal Kingdom exhibition also helps visitors learn about the realities of human impact on the environment.
The “Endangered” room in the exhibition highlights endangered and threatened animals, but it’s also a call to action. In this room, visitors can learn about small changes they can make in their own lives to have a positive impact on the world around them.
Filippini-Fantoni says museums have a responsibility to discuss important social justice issues like humans’ impact on the environment.
“There’s this idea that museums should be neutral,” Filippini-Fantoni says. “But really, we want to address these topics that are relevant and important for our audiences.”
These special events as well as the immersive nature of the exhibition are efforts to effectively engage with visitors, especially visitors from younger generations.
“We kind of understand that just putting artwork on the wall is not really going to engage and connect with younger audiences,” Filippini-Fantoni says. “We really need to do it in a different way.”
The Animal Kingdom exhibition is unique from what you’d typically find in an art museum, but it was created in connection with the Newark Museum of Art’s values and mission.
“It was all very intentionally focused on creating opportunities that are unexpected and creative,” says Andreina Castillo, director of marketing and communication for the Newark Museum of Art.
Maegan Douglas, manager of interpretation and public programs, says she hopes attendees leave the exhibition with a sense of awe and wonder.
“Many visitors may not remember some of the things they saw,” Douglas says. “But they’re going to remember how they felt.
The Animal Kingdom exhibition at the Newark Museum of Art is on view through May 2024.