Most kids would rather play video games than go to an art museum. After all, video games are fun and exciting—art museums are dull and boring. Perhaps that was true in the past, but organizers of the Children’s Interactive Gallery at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse have changed all that. Curated by Marion Wilson of the Everson and designed by architecture professor Lawrence Davis, this dynamic exhibition engages the whole family in a hands-on arts education experience. “The Children’s Interactive Gallery is not a Discovery Zone or substitute baby-sitter,” Davis says. “The museum’s intention is to introduce children to art as an exciting, vital part of everyday life. We hope this experience makes them less intimidated by museums.”
brantley carroll photography
The Children's Interactive Gallery at the Everson Museum engages visitors in fun, educational activities.
      The gallery features a variety of self-explanatory activities designed to blur the boundaries between viewer and object. In one corner, children are invited to turn wooden blocks into unique architectural designs. In another, budding artists can draw and paint at computer work stations, rearrange puzzle pieces depicting famous artwork, or read colorful art books that practically jump off a table demanding to be read.
      Moving through the exhibition’s portraiture area, children are encouraged to draw self-portraits in crayon. They create new identities by trying on various costumes and then have their portraits photographed in front of painted backdrops chosen from the museum’s permanent collection. An inscription on the wall asks: “What kind of clothes will you wear? What kind of story will you tell?” Davis says teenagers in particular seem to enjoy this part of the exhibit, perhaps because they’re struggling with their own identities.
      Davis designed the interactive gallery for an open space on the museum’s lower level. “I used the language of building construction [tectonics] by showing the 2-by-6s in their raw form,” he says. “A collage of different kinds of materials gives the gallery a playful feel, pinwheeling around the proscenium to generate a sense of movement. The project also attempts to use its articulated form and spaces to relate to the scale of children.”
      In the project’s second phase, children will examine pieces from the museum’s premier ceramics collection, then try different sculpting techniques with clay. “Among the things I’ve learned by designing the gallery is that education is now as important a part of museums as showing and preserving art,” Davis says. “It’s been gratifying to create something so meaningful at the grass-roots level.”

                                                      —CHRISTINE YACKEL


While most of us are trying to figure out how to program our VCRs, philosophers are debating whether VCRs even exist. According to Stewart Thau, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and former chair of the Department of Philosophy, this questioning of time, space, and the basic structure of reality is known as metaphysics, or the “study of what is truly real.”
      Philosophical debate includes four main areas of study—metaphysics, epistemology (the theory of knowledge), logic, and moral philosophy. The Department of Philosophy’s greatest strength is metaphysics. “Fortunately, three mid-career metaphysicians joined senior faculty members José Benardete and Philip Peterson,” says Thau. “Clearly, Ted Sider, John Hawthorne, and Dean Zimmerman bring tremendous talent and prestige to the philosophy department.”
      The National Research Council consistently ranks the philosophy department’s Ph.D. program in the top 25, making it the second-highest-rated doctoral program at SU. The department’s national reputation was further enhanced this past summer when it hosted Metaphysical Mayhem V, an invitation-only conference that attracted leading metaphysicians from around the world. Scholars from Oxford University, Notre Dame, Princeton, the University of Colorado, Cornell University, and other major philosophy programs discussed such topics as the nature of mental causation; distinguishing essential properties of things from their accidental properties; theories of truth, vagueness, and causation; and the question of whether metaphysical theories of the nature of physical objects are ever true.
      The conference gave philosophy department faculty members and graduate students opportunities to participate in developing some of the most important ideas being debated today in metaphysics. “It connected all of us with current work being done by major figures in the field of metaphysics in the United States and abroad,” says Tom McKay, chair of the philosophy department. “Now that the annual conference has its permanent home at Syracuse, it will make the University increasingly well-known throughout the profession, as more philosophers come to know about the work being done by our faculty members and graduate students, and the thriving culture for philosophical discussion that Syracuse provides.”
      Although the number of undergraduate philosophy majors at Syracuse is relatively small—about 40—the department makes a significant contribution to the education of undergraduate students throughout the University. In fact, the philosophy department offers courses that satisfy the liberal arts core requirements to more undergraduate students than most other departments in the College of Arts and Sciences. Thau believes this is because philosophy expands the imagination and develops the intellectual flexibility and verbal skills needed to succeed in a variety of professions. “Philosophical debate is an excellent foundation for anyone going into science, law, or medicine because it teaches you how to reason and think,” he says. “At its deepest level, philosophy is the foundation of all science.”
                                              —CHRISTINE YACKEL

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