As San Antonio reflects on its storied 300-year history, The DoSeum looks toward the future through the eyes of the city’s children. Dream Tomorrow Today, a multisensory, interactive exhibition, opens Saturday, June 2, with hands-on educational activities specifically designed for kids to imagine possible futures for their community.
“They will naturally inherit this city, and I want them to be able to have that opportunity to think in advance of where they want us to be as a city, and as a world,” said Meredith Doby, the DoSeum’s vice president of exhibits.
During introductory remarks at a member preview Friday, DoSeum Chief Executive Officer Daniel Menelly identified Doby as “the creative force behind” Dream Tomorrow Today. The exhibition is the first fully designed and created by the DoSeum, Doby said, with one year of preparation including consultation with expert “future thinkers,” and two community-input sessions earlier this year.
Community members contributed essential content for the show, Doby said, and the result is a spectacle of sights, sounds, and educational activities meant to prompt San Antonio’s kids to see themselves as participants in how the city is shaped.
Two artists-in-residence were asked to build installations for the exhibition: Calder Kamin from Austin, and Gregorio Mannino, an artist and designer from San Antonio.
A gateway entrance mural made by Kamin shapes reclaimed trash into a Fibonacci spiral. The spiral is a common natural form found in ferns and sunflower seed heads, for example, and represents nature and technology in harmony, Kamin said.
Within the spiral are examples of such outmoded technologies as calculators, floppy disks, and compact discs, attached to the wall and interspersed with colorful spray paint can tops cut into flower shapes. The objects were scavenged by Kamin with the assistance of environmentally minded friends, she said.
Just through the gateway is Kamin’s exhibition-opening “time tunnel” installation room, which features a sign that pointedly reads, “Trash is the future without imagination.”
As an artist “concerned with the plastic pollution crisis that’s happening on the planet,” Kamin said, “through being … a creative problem solver and thinker, I thought how can I reuse these materials, how can I transform [them into] art?” she asked.
DoSeum member and self-described “hippie” Janette Timmins said she tries to impress the value of recycling on her children, and appreciates that the exhibition communicates this idea “in a really fun way, that relates to them.”
Her 5-year-old daughter Adelai liked the video-projection nature slide designed by teamLab, a Japanese interdisciplinary creative technology group. Adelai brought her mother through the exhibition a second time so she could play on it again.
Dream Tomorrow Today centers on six core urban values, Doby said: Arts and Culture, Community, Education, Nature, Health, and Transportation. In a central room featuring several city-focused activities, kids can vote on which of these values mean most to them, and participate by plugging a colored peg into a glowing, interactive wall-mural based on the popular Hasbro Lite-Brite toy first invented in 1967.
In the same room, an augmented-reality city-building game uses values-themed tiles for kids to construct the kind of community they like, which is then subjected to a natural disaster like the flooding in Houston following Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Each community is examined for its capability to withstand such environmental devastation.
Conscious of recent natural disasters, one 10-year-old building his city said any city of the future will need supplies and a safe area for emergencies. “You’re going to need grit, because you can’t just give up,” he said. “That’s what everyone tells me,” he said, “you need to persevere.”
That the exhibition touches on darker themes is welcomed by Kamin. “The future can look bright or dark” based on the choices we make, she said. As a self-described activist and educator, Kamin said she asks “can we challenge ourselves to be creative problem solvers? Can we challenge ourselves to make better choices?”
A downloadable DoSeum City Lab app will allow kids to continue their city-building project after their visit to the exhibition, with an incentive to win more values-themed “tiles” for their custom-designed cities.
Mannino’s installation is the “design lab” portion of the exhibition, which encourages creative play through object-making. A “plastic shredder” machine and injection molder will help supply art materials for kids to use, said DoSeum Discovery Leader Joshua Camarena, and parents and kids can respond to specific prompts.
“The whole concept of this gallery is to do future planning, future thoughts about yourself, about your city and community values,” Camarena said.
A “Dream It Make It” contest allows an opportunity for kids to join in on Mannino’s installation. Objects they make during docent-led workshops can be voted on by exhibition visitors for continued display in a wall of gold-framed boxes, opposite the artist’s own wall-sized object mural.
Dream Tomorrow Today engages children “to think about what are other possibilities,” than the status quo, Doby said, and encourages kids “to really expand their minds, and to use their imaginations to propel San Antonio to somewhere new.”
The exhibition will run through Jan. 6, 2019, and Kamin will be present for two workshops in the fall, she said. More information will become available on the DoSeum website as the dates approach, she said.