CSU’s Early Childhood Center contributing to youth exhibition at Clyfford Still Museum

Infant looking at art

The Early Childhood Center at Colorado State University will be participating in a collaborative exhibition that will open at the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver in September 2021.

“Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind” will examine the aesthetic preferences of early learners using Clyfford Still’s artworks as a basis for study.

During the next year, museum staff will work with young children, ages 6 weeks to 8 years old, and teachers from partner schools and childcare centers around the Denver metro area on every level of the exhibition, including artwork selection and arrangement, object interpretation and gallery text, and programming.

Clyfford Still painting“This opportunity provides the Early Childhood Center with an authentic collaboration with the Clyfford Stills Museum,” said Karen Rattenborg, CSU Early Childhood Center executive director. “It is inspiring to see the ways these creative minds are embracing developmental principles to explore and deepen our understanding of how children respond to and engage with art. This work has the potential to transform the ways that young children and families access and embrace abstract expressionist art.”

“Breaking down the misconception that abstraction is too complex for young children, Clyfford Still, Art, and the Young Mind will present current and generate new research illuminating the rich benefits of art museum experiences in young children’s lives,” added Nicole Cromartie, director of education and programs and co-curator of the exhibition. “Though primarily created by and for early learners, the exhibition will include various levels of engagement to encourage visitors of all ages to explore abstraction, the progression of visual function and preference, and the intrinsic power behind Clyfford Still’s art.”

The ECC’s role

According to Rattenborg, the infants at the ECC will be reacting to and helping select the paintings for the high-contrast gallery. The older children at the ECC will also be helping museum staff design a “Making Space” area at the museum with open-ended experiences for children up to age 8.

“ECC staff is still brainstorming this part with the Clyfford Still team, but we think it will be the children talking to them about what makes a museum Making Space accessible to young children and brainstorming activities based on the art,” Rattenborg said. “So, the adults are collaborating with the children. We expect that the children will create works of art at the ECC as an extension of the work with the Clyfford Still team. There is the potential that those works of art, along with photos/videos of the children engaging with them, could be used to decorate the Making Space at the Clyfford Still museum.”

In addition to CSU’s Early Childhood Center, schools partnering with the museum include Montclair School of Academics and Enrichment, Head Start at the Dagny Site, Gust Elementary, Boulder Journey School, Center for Talent Development and Catholic Charities ECE Programs at Mariposa (Head Start). In addition to area schools, thought partners for the exhibition include the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Colorado Denver, the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children, and the Colorado Head Start Association.

Clyfford Still paintingThe exhibition

Installed in five of the museum’s nine galleries and based on current research and field work, the exhibition will run from Sept. 17, 2021, to Jan. 23, 2022. It will explore five significant themes in the visual development of infants through early childhood: high contrast, pattern, scale, recognizable imagery, and bright, highly saturated colors. Gallery text will reveal not only how children in the community responded to these five themes, but also how Still achieved an artform that continues to resonate through time by mastering these fundamental visual motifs. The remaining galleries in the Museum will be arranged in a chronological narrative and will highlight masterworks from the collection selected with families and young children in mind.

The exhibition marks the next chapter of the museum’s fostering of engagement with its unique collections by facilitating significant experiences of Still’s work with an entirely new audience for the museum. By engaging with this growing field of research, the museum continues to fulfill its mission to broaden the definition of a single-artist museum through the generation of cutting-edge exhibitions, scholarly research and educational and other cross-disciplinary programs. For more information, visit http://clyffordstillmuseum.org/youngminds.

About the Early Childhood Center

The CSU Early Childhood Center is a laboratory school with a three-fold mission to (a) prepare university students for careers in the field of early childhood; (b) provide opportunities for research related to children, families, and early childhood education; and (c) offer a developmentally appropriate, Reggio Emilia-inspired learning environment for young children. Each year, the ECC serves approximately 150 children (ages 6 weeks to 6 years) while simultaneously training more than 120 students from various units across campus including Design and Merchandising, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Human Development and Family Studies, Occupational Therapy, the School of Education and the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.

Clyfford Still Museum

Designed by Allied Works Architecture to display the revolutionary art of one of the 20th century’s greatest artists, the Clyfford Still Museum opened in November 2011 in Denver’s Golden Triangle Creative District. Considered one of the most important and mysterious painters of the 20th century, Clyfford Still (1904-1980) was among the first generation of abstract expressionist artists who developed a new and powerful approach to painting in the years during and immediately after World War II. The museum’s collection represents 95% of the artist’s lifetime output. As the steward of Still’s art and legacy, the museum’s mission is to preserve, exhibit, study and foster engagement with its unique collections; generate outstanding exhibitions, scholarly research, educational and other cross-disciplinary programs that broaden the definition of a “single-artist” museum; and be a gathering place for the exploration of innovation and individual artistic endeavor. Connect with the Clyfford Still Museum on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or at clyffordstillmuseum.org.

The Early Childhood Center is in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

CSU University Communications Staff