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Family Fun in Indy

Art, Nature and Family Time in 100 Acres

New Art & Nature Park at IMA is a Must See

June 01, 2010
Winnie the Pooh loves his 100-acre wood as much as he loves honey. Now your little "Super Sleuth" can discover his or her own secret passageways in Indianapolis at the new 100 Acres: The Virginia Fairbanks Art & Nature Park at the IMA (Indianapolis Museum of Art). Located on 100 acres of woodlands and wetlands along with a 35-acre lake, this brand new art and nature park is not so much whimsy as it is a chance to open the window to creativity for kids. Parents looking for something different to do might find it a great backdrop for a family picnic while introducing the children to a little art and culture.

The artwork explores the natural features of the area. For example, the architecture of the visitors pavilion was inspired by a deteriorating leaf. Parents can point to the ceiling that was designed with alternating planks of wood and acrylic allowing sun to shine through and explain the architect's vision of sun gleaming through the veins of a leaf.

And what kid wouldn't giggle with glee at the chance to sit on "Funky Bones." Don't worry, these skeletal pieces of art are not of the human variety. It is actually a grouping of 20 benches that will form the shape of an enormous skeleton when looking at it from above. Each piece could be used as a stepping off point in talking to the kids about their own imaginative ideas or to talk about practical matters. In this case, it might be a good way to talk about his or her body and how everyone is different. For the younger ones, you could even sing the "Dem Bones" song. You remember, right? "The toe bone connected to the heel bone…"

Happy little hoopsters will want to check out the sculptural surrealist basketball court. It's actually the centerpiece of the parking loop. And the court, with its steel arches, probably could serve as a jungle gym. Of course, you could pack your own ball and play a fun game of H-O-R-S-E before settling down for a picnic on one of the lawns.

A stroll to the 35-acre lake will reveal a series of platforms that can actually be used as a fishing dock. While perched upon one of the platforms, the kids will no doubt let their imaginations run wild with stories of pirates and sinking ships when they look out at the sculptural profile of a ship. With its name, Eden 2, painted on each side, the ship is a modern-day ark seemingly filled with human passengers. There will also be a large floating island that will be functional and inhabitable. The island will be an experiment in modular living, examining the daily needs of contemporary human beings and two students from Herron School of Art and Design will live on the island this summer.

You can use all of these pieces and places to talk to your children about the delicate balance between humans and nature. The art and nature park will become the largest museum contemporary art park and the only park of its kind in an urban setting in the United States. The Art & Nature Park site is also bordered by the White River and runs along the IMA's current 52-acre campus, a large portion of which is made up of historic landscapes, gardens and an orchard. There is a wonderful scenic pathway running through the heart of it for walkers & joggers. And the outdoors sets a beautiful backdrop for family photos.

While you are there, take the time to explore the galleries inside the Indianapolis Museum of Art for free or visit the Oldfields–Lilly House & Gardens, an historic Country Place Era estate on the IMA's grounds. The renovated 600-seat Tobias Theater offers culturally adventurous programming throughout the year, including talks, performances, and films. The Summer Nights Film Series is a great date night for Mom and Dad. And teens (or adults for that matter) who appreciate art might want to check out www.artbabble.org. There is an incredible wealth of knowledge about the arts organized by the IMA and includes some of the top art museums in the nation.

Whether you choose to take the kids on a tour inside the museum or spend time together outdoors, I think you'll find both settings are ideal for a fun adventure of learning together during some quality family time. And a big bonus is that most of it is free.

Kimberly Harms has four children (5-24) along with a grandchild and is the associate director of media relations at the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, www.visitindy.com. You can follow her on Twitter @kimberlyharms.

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