Next week, staff from MoMA’s Department of Education will attend a workshop organized by the Museum Access Consortium that will focus on museum programs for visitors who are on the autism spectrum. Like the other museums that will participate in this workshop, MoMA is committed to providing a variety of programs and services to ensure that our visitors’ different needs and abilities are recognized. One of the many programs we offer, Create Ability, has been serving children and adults with learning or developmental disabilities, including autism, since early 2006. Create Ability welcomes these individuals, along with their families and friends, facilitating meaningful engagement with art through discussions in our galleries and art-making activities in our classrooms.
At our most recent program we focused on the theme Art in Motion: Film. Throughout the past six years we have explored many different topics and materials in MoMA’s collection, such as performance art and Abstract Expressionism, yet we had never before focused on film. MoMA’s Department of Film is an invaluable resource, and we decided that it was time we discovered all the treasures it had to offer. Since this was our first time watching film in this program, we chose to screen two early classics that would serve as an introduction to the medium: Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie (1928) and Georges Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune) (1902).
The families gathered in The Celeste Bartos Theater in MoMA’s Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building. Kerry Downey and Sally Paul, two of MoMA’s specially trained Community and Access Programs educators, introduced the topic and led discussions before and after each film. Steamboat Willie was the first cartoon with synchronized sound, and A Trip to the Moon is a silent, live-action film. During our screening of A Trip to the Moon, we were joined by the piano accompanist Ben Model, who regularly accompanies silent films in MoMA’s theaters. His musical improvisation helped guide our participants through the film’s plot and highlighted intricacies that might have otherwise been lost.
After an hour in the theater, we headed to the classrooms, where each family created their own short silent films inspired by A Trip to the Moon. Kerry and Sally guided the participants through a discussion about the filmmaking process. Participants then created storyboards to plan out what they would do if they visited the moon. They wrote and drew out their plans, then went to work making creative use of a wide array of prop-making supplies we had piled high on tables throughout the classroom.
One at a time, each group acted out their scenes in front of the backdrop while we filmed them. We used the 8mm Vintage Camera app on the iPhone for its filter effects, which made the videos look almost as though they were filmed in 1902. Above is a brief look at the films created during this program, together with clips from the recording of Ben Model’s piano accompaniment.
The complete, compiled film will be on display throughout the exhibition of work produced this season during the Create Ability program, in The Edward John Noble Education Center Lobby, March 24–April 16. An opening reception will be held the evening of Friday, March 23, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
For a closer look at Create Ability, take a look at this video about the program: