ARTech: Pop-up Activity Center: Review by Andrea Santo Felcone

ARTech logo This past Saturday, my family and I had an opportunity to check out an interesting “pop-up” activity center known as “ARTech: Adventures in Art + Technology” held in the Meatpacking District of New York City. The Children’s Museum of the Arts and the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI) in partnership with the Meatpacking Business Improvement District (BID) is currently hosting this “pop-up” in a modern 8,000 square foot, vacant retail storefront.

Here, and elsewhere, STEM has been transformed into STEAM—the “A” of “The ARTs” added to the STEM mix of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. My sons love the Visual Arts and Engineering, so the whole idea of an Art and Technology “mash-up” sounded perfect.

We trekked from NJ to NYC, opting for public transportation (forgetting just how many transfers on The PATH that would mean). However, once there, we were rewarded for our efforts. If you haven’t been to the Meatpacking District lately, and you enjoy gentrification, you will be pleasantly surprised to find adorable restaurants, boutiques, and shops. (Sadly, I read most of the meatpackers have left the area.) However, my husband and I kept remarking on how “civilized” it was. Sometimes the hustle and bustle of NYC is great, but on Saturday it felt wonderful to be walking quiet cobblestoned streets. Had the weather cooperated (it was drizzling and cold), we would have explored “The High Line” (an elevated freight rail line transformed into a public park that’s right next to “ARTech”).

So, with our commute and the weather, we arrived at our destination—cranky. Upon entering the space, my first thought was “this was not going to interest my older son” (although on paper it sounded like it would be “right up his alley”). However, once settled in, we completely enjoyed ourselves. Yes, the activities are geared to the younger crowd, (my six-year-old was the perfect age), but, happily, my teenager found things of interest.ARTech velocity ramps

We started at the VELOCITY area. This was my older son’s favorite spot. My younger son “warmed up” here and was then ready to participate in all that ARTech had to offer. In this area, the children design custom “cars” (cardboard, construction paper, etc.) and shoot their racers down ramps. The ramps are varied: one is steep, the others have dips in them; the green ramp’s dip is deep. It was fun to watch the children return to the “drawing board” to make changes to improve the car’s speed. My youngest was particularly challenged by that green ramp and in his inimitable style–he tried to “Evel Knievel” his car over the center dip—to no avail. Eventually, he designed his car to outsmart that pesky ramp.

Next, onto the GIF-MAKING STATION: The eldest opted out, but the youngest designed a rocket (construction paper with a magnet on back) and placed his rocket on a green screen. An ARTech helper assisted him in using the technology available to turn himself and his rocket into an animated GIF. (You leave with a business card with a website so you can access your GIF from home.)

INTERACTIVE ART: There is an AMAZING piece of not-to-be-missed art by Artist Danny Rozin on display. It features 413 wood panels–created by children–that the artist arranged and made interactive. As you move in front of the artwork—it moves with you. My youngest had fun dancing in front of it, watching his shadows and listening to the soothing “clickety-clack” of the tiles.

ARTech Ball PondThen, the moment my son begged for … the BALL POND. This is like a ball pit on steroids–a place where former Pilates balls retire. A large area filled with colorful balls and maybe 15 kids (at a time) jumping, diving, bouncing, walking on the balls, etc. An assistant timed the children, so the next batch of bouncers could have their turn. (I don’t know this woman, but I can assure you she doesn’t have children of her own.) There is no way I could have sat as calmly as she did, while these kids bounced along. I apprehensively let my youngest do this, until I saw a boy extracted with a bloody nose, and then I was DONE. Well-supervised, but still, a giant pit of Pilates balls and jumping kids is bound to get “dicey”. Not for the faint of heart, but the kids (including my son) had a … ball.

We skipped “STARLAB,” a portable planetarium that looks like a gray bounce house, because my son had already experienced this when it came to his school. He had enjoyed it and I’m sure it would be fun for any child interested in stargazing. ARTech Building Rigamajig

We ended the experience in “BUILD IT”. This entertained both of my children (mainly because my older son likes to engineer things), but again, this is more of a toddler and elementary school-aged crowd. I had a great time watching my teen build and then watching a cute toddler insert his design ideas into my son’s structure (my son got a kick out of this, too). The young kids were having a great time building with the award-winning design kit, “Rigamajig,” and using the wooden planks, pulleys, nuts, bolts, etc.

All in all, it was a fun time. It got the kids away from their screens and gave them time for creative play. It felt good to support the organizations that are providing these activities—and this ARTech pop-up is FREE to the public. Walk-ins are accommodated if the exhibit is not to capacity–but a reservation is recommended to guarantee a spot. Reservations can be made here: If you are looking for something creative to do, especially for the younger ones, check it out. ARTech will be open to the public every Wednesday and Thursday from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (hours may vary) for the remainder of March and most of April (ends April 29). Meatpacking District: Address: 451-459 West 14th Street.

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