The Leonardo is a new kind of museum in Downtown Salt Lake City. The Leo fuses science, technology, and art into experiences that inspire creativity and innovation in people of all ages and backgrounds.

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Tuesday Tots @ The Leonardo

Ok, imagine for a minute being a toddler visiting the Leo. Fascinating danglies that hang high above your head, a wall of colored lights where the bottom is just about level with your head, same with the lowest lovely things in the gift shop. Hmm, so going through the Art Lab you find big wooden tables with great interesting things on them, you can get up on a stool if your mom or dad lifts you, and there are wood and cardboard building things and bean bags on the floor. And upstairs in Render and Tinkering, yeah, you can make it work. But what if someone was thinking about just YOU when they were planning a workshop? Well we are!

Every Tuesdays from Sept. through Dec. starting Sept. 3, tots can take a free class where they rotate through T
Kid @ PlayIn Tinkering, moms, dads and tots will be using the art of gentle destruction to rescue useful parts from broken computers, appliances, radios, tape players, VCRs, etc. Then you can design and build your own masterpiece of kinetic (moving art.) There may also be a Tots sessions, for example, in the Tinkering Garage, where Mom gets to transform a pile of cardboard, sticks, rubber bands and duct tape etc. into a useful, clever, or artistic treasure or build an automaton or explore the concept of flying pendulum escapement, while the little ones develop their architectural skill with blocks on a blankie.he Lab, Render and Tinkering weekly doing activities tailored specifically for them. In The Lab the first class will be ‘Mud in the Kitchen,’ and following that in the Lab, clay will be rotated with collage/re-cycle on a two week basis.

We spoke with Wizards Micah Larsen and Jann Haworth, who run Render and Lab @ The Leo, to find out some of the things we can look forward to this fall.

I asked Micah how the littlies might find Render, where you learn about animation and digital art. “I think many of the activities are doable with parental guidance,” he said. “The stop-motion booths are set up to be very simple with single button capture, digital painting happens with just touching a brush to a screen and the green screen needs only someone to step in front of it! Motion capture can have a hard time picking up the shape of those tiny frames, but I’m hoping with the update of a beta test they have out now that it may improve.

All that being said, we are nearly finished with our puppet fabrication (and these are cool puppets/ photo attached) and an accompanying set built in Maya for the green screen that I think will be particularly popular with the toddler demographic and everyone else!”



I asked what he hoped the kids will take away from the workshops? “I think a big step in that, a

nd something we’re working on integrating more of in Render, are inspiring displays of work created within the space using the tools we have available and mini-exhibits displaying the science behind the work they’re creating. With the age group we’re talking about I’m more concerned with them just having fun in the space. I’m hoping these kids will be enjoying themselves so much that they never want to leave!”

We asked Jann how she came up with some of the ideas for the Lab for Tots. “Well, as a mom of some experience, and as one fascinated by creative ideas in education, I am always thinking about/ reading about/ watching how people respond to things, in the Lab and in everyday life. My current ‘watch areas’ are: Alfie Kohn… Ken Robinson and unplugging/theater/journalism.”


I asked her what unplugging is and why is it so important for little ones to have experiences with the visceral side of art at such a young age?

“This last winter I saw no snowmen,” she said. “The snow was good for snowmen/women! Not the impossible powder that is typical for Utah and great for skiing but lousy for snowmen. I did no research door to door, asked no one why there wasn’t a snow man in their front garden but leaped unfettered to the conclusion that computer games were to blame. And I bet I am not wrong.  So I am looking at kids in theatrical performances, in the supermarket, in cars, in THE LEO! And I see them being handed a mechanical device to ‘entertain’ them. Got to say- real life with all its tantrums is better.

“So, I am focusing increasingly on wood, sand, rocks, clay, bugs, magnifying glasses, drawing, talking. Kids big and little are explorers, are curious, make messes, ask questions, behave badly, are noisy…they need to have a childhood. Yes we can vaunt the learning skills trained by a computer: memory, sequential narrative, mapping, dexterity… and more. But the computer game smells of nothing, doesn’t run through your fingers like sand, isn’t heavy like a rock. It may replicate and insect- but it lacks the vivid, unpredictable nature of a wild thing.

“I want the Lab to be an UNplugged refuge. So that is Unplugging… Why? We have been on this planet a long time. All of that time we have lived our days according to the sun. It is only in the last 100 years that people have moved away from daily contact with plants, soil, animals… we slept inside but were ‘outside’ the larger portion of our waking time. This is changing- and not without ramifications.”

I asked her if this was a series that she would like to see repeated?20130813_140345

“Yes-on-going and the site of the Lab is amazing for it. All four seasons are very much a part of the feel of the Lab because of the design of the building with its huge floor to ceiling windows. Also I think we hope to reflect the inner seasons; family seasons, school time, Christmas, Thanksgiving, vacations… visits to relatives… Gran in town.”

Finally, I asked Jann what would her ultimate workshop be. Get ready: “AAAAHHH,” she said. “Dress up-chest full of wonderful cloth-oil paint and a blank canvas and clean brushes that I didn’t have to clean every time I changed colors. So I would dress up be dramatic and paint a picture of a queen, a liana, a big rock, a Tarzan outfit, and I get to grab the liana and swing about or a horse grooming workshop that ends with me riding bareback galloping at full speed round Library Square.”


The Leonardo is at 209 E. 500 South, Salt Lake City, or you can visit or call 801.531.9800 for more information.


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