CELVELAND - Walk into Gallery One, literally the first gallery inside the Cleveland Museum of Art's entrance, and you'll know immediately that you're about to have a very different museum experience.
Surrounded by popular works from the museum's collection are multiple interactive screens that will take you through a variety of experiences: recreate a masterwork, strike a pose that mimics an ancient sculpture, make a face on a photo screen and find its mirror image in a work of art. You can e-mail your images or post to social media.
Caroline Goeser is the Director of Interpretation and Education at the museum, and among dozens of staff members who were involved in developing the project.
"There's been a notion that art museums are about looking, meditating alone. We want people to have a much fuller experience. We want people to talk, debate, feel physically involved," Goeser said.
Using the museum's new app for iPad called ArtLens, visitors can scan art and immediately get more information about it. So far the museum has stored nine hours of audio commentary about pieces in the collection from museum staff and members of the community. The app also allows for individuals to customize their tour of the museum or choose one created by a previous visitor or CMA director David Franklin, for example. The museum has about 70 iPads to rent for $5 or you can use your own.
Most dazzling is the 40-foot interactive wall, displaying more than 3,500 pieces in the museum's collection. Tap an image and it enlarges, adding information, location and similar works to page through. Visitors can "favorite" pieces, and download the information on their iPad.
On Thursday, a cluster of teenagers was completely engrossed by the wall. It's an audience the museum wants to reach.
"That was a major goal,"Goeser said. She gives credit for the vision to Milton Maltz, who donated $10 million to the project to "attract new visitors to the Cleveland Museum of Art. And what better way to do that than with technology. We want to use that as a tool that will turn them toward the actual work of art."
Gallery One has room for even the youngest visitors to the museum in Studio Play. There's technology here too, most amusingly in a screen that you scribble on with a finger and then see a work of art that incorporates your finger doodle. Fun stuff. But there are crayons too, and magnetic frames to hold the finished drawing. So your 5-year-old can truthfully say, "my drawing is on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art."
How cool is that?
Find more information about the museum and hours here: http://www.clevelandart.org