Playing with Modernism Symposium

The symposium, “Playing with Modernism: Historical Perspectives on Children and Design,” took place on November 16, 2012, in conjunction with the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900-2000. The exhibition at MoMA showed how design created for children in the name of creating a new vision of society existed across the world in the twentieth century. The symposium took up these themes, examining them at two historical moments: the early twentieth century and the Cold War.

The afternoon began with MoMA architecture and design curator Juliet Kinchin’s discussion of three seminal figures in art education, Franz Ci┼żek, Francesco Randone and Marion Richardson, and their practices that reconsidered children as artists in their own right. Jeffrey Saletnik, assistant professor of  history of art at Amherst College, discussed the educational ideals of Josef Albers’s courses at the Bauhaus, and ways that paper figured both as a German pedagogical tradition and as a uniquely modernist experience of discovery.

In the second half of the symposium, Amy Ogata, BGC associate professor, and the documentary film Toys (Zabawki) by Andrej Wolski examined the idealized place of toys and spaces on either side of the Cold War divide. While American postwar parents sought toys that might instill creativity in their children, Wolski’s documentary showed how Polish children devised their own toys, perceived objects from the West, and embraced the products of Eastern Bloc factories over a 45-year period.

The afternoon concluded with a panel discussion led by Aidan O’Connor, who co-curated the MoMA exhibition

The symposium, which was originally scheduled for November 2, 2012, was delayed because of Hurricane Sandy.


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