New Exhibits & Installations
We offer numerous opportunities for children and their caregivers to engage deeply with the arts
Stair Trek: Core to Cosmos
A journey through the Earth in our five-story stairwell
Opened February 1, 2017
Embark on an interactive journey through the universe, from the depths of the Earth’s core, through caves, forests, tree canopies, sky, and to the remote reaches of outer space. Stair Trek: Core to Cosmos features the voices of children from the Madison community, who describe the sounds, smells, textures, and feelings of each environment in poetic, playful, unexpected, and profound ways. The exhibit includes hundreds of drawings collected from children over the past year.
The experience is a choreographed concert of image, sound, and light, which is different on every adventure through the space. MCM engaged celebrated local digital media artist, Jojin Van Winkle, on the conceptual development, project design and implementation of the sights and sounds of the stairwell.
Stair Trek is a series of re-imagined stairwells that are part of a larger, multi-year community initiative, Design to Move. This project was created in response to a health crisis facing many children and families in Dane County that is related to a lack of physical activity. In 2015, the CDC stated that, for the first time in history, children today are projected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Physical activity needs to be integrated back into daily life through urban design and community environment. Built-in opportunities for exercise—specifically existing, code-required stairwells—are often the most underused and least engaging spaces in a building, while elevators have become more central.
Madison Children’s Museum and American Family Children’s Hospital, along with a robust group of community partners, including the Madison Fire Department, the Healthy Kids Collaborative, Dane Arts. and the Madison Art Commission, are changing public health through creative design, and will change the behaviors of children and families in Madison by turning healthy choices into exciting and playful experiences.
Design to Move: Stair Trek is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Richard B. Anderson Family Foundation, Diane Ballweg, the Pyle Foundation, Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, Jim Berbee & Karen Walsh, Dane Arts with support from the Evjue Foundation, Healthy Kids Collaborative and the American Family Children’s Hospital, Trek Bicycle, and Madison Arts Commission with support from the Wisconsin Arts Board. Madison Children’s Museum has received additional contributions from the Play Everywhere Challenge, a collaborative grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, KaBOOM!, Target, Playworld, the U.S. Department for Housing & Urban Development, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Community partners for Design to Move include American Family Children’s Hospital, Bayview Foundation, Urban Land Interests, Dane Arts, Healthy Kids Collaborative, Madison Arts Commission, Madison Fire Department, One City Early Learning Center, University of Wisconsin Department of Art, UW Health, and The YWCA Madison. Thank you to the many departments in the City of Madison and Dane County who collaborated on this project.
Opened January 20, 2017
Seymore’s Adventure won MCM’s 2016 Polling Place election, with 36% of the vote cast by our under-18 visitors. Seymore returns to the museum floor after first appearing in MCM’s Leap Into Lakes exhibit nearly twenty years ago. Come take an adventure with Seymore and learn about fish anatomy and lake habitats while you play! Crawl through Seymore, imagine yourself below the surface of the lake, don a life jacket and catch fish from a boat, try on lake create costumes, learn about water, wetlands and limnology, plus more!
Sidewalk Surprise Earth Play
100% natural dyes, cotton
This popup exhibit combines playful images and natural colors to create hand printed textiles of mondern India. Meeta Mastani is an internationally known print/dye artist, design specialist and community development advocate. She is currently an Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence at the UW-Madison Arts Institute.
Montgomery Ward Hardware Department
Opened August 1, 2016
Madison Children’s Museum’s building was originally built in 1929 as a Montgomery Ward department store, selling a wide variety of goods that were also available through its enormous catalogs. This summer we explore our (very) local history by re-creating a vintage Hardware Department as it would have been displayed at Montgomery Ward. Children can put on an apron to play shopkeeper with a cash register or pick up a vintage shopping basket to buy some tools. Play with bristly paintbrushes and real skeleton keys, and look at a display of vintage tools. There’s a balancing scale for practicing equivalencies and measuring; paint cans to help reinforce color and size sorting skills, and a magnetic tool wall where visitors can recognize and match silhouettes. Come in to learn through play in our Montgomery Ward Hardware Department.
Glow Show III
Through May 2017
Back for our third year, Glow Show features the neon work of UW-Madison glass students, who have created neon pieces based upon children’s drawings in our art studio. This year, Glow Show will look to the contributions made by MCM visitors to the Lynda Barry Compbook project, and may well feature celebrated images like a house on fire, a pair of scissors, or a bird. Glow Show will occupy the third floor windows overlooking the Capitol Square.
The museum back lot features the newest, largest piece of art at MCM, larger than the Love Birds sculpture on the rooftop, but much lighter, weighing little more than a shadow. Shadow Castle can be seen and enjoyed by visitors from the museum’s rooftop and Log Cabin yard. This whimsical, fantasy representation of the museum’s shadow includes a flying dragon.
This new art replaces the former Funkyard. With the back entrance now closed to the public, visitors to the Log Cabin will enter from the Pinckney Street sidewalk. Shadow Castle will remain for the foreseeable future, until the back lot is developed into a new play space.