I have to refrain from the urge to referee, guide, demonstrate or facilitate. Because it's only when they're sure the adults are not interested that the seriously unstructured play comes on, with all its small power struggles and shared moments of joy. (See legendary Lynda Barry talk about play at the end of this post.)
I'm fascinated by the ability of kids to spontaneously engage in creative collaboration (a.k.a. 'play') with other kids they didn't know 10 minutes before. It's a lesson in the power of putting ourselves out there creatively, to let go of control and all expectations.
After-hours at the Vancouver Art Gallery, we were all quickly introduced before we were invited to attack and stack Coupland's priceless/useless toy bits to assemble his imposing 'Brick Wall' at the entrance of the exhibit, under the artist's direction. We were just playing but in retrospect we were problem-solving issues of density, colour, weight, communication, and give-and-take. We were just talking but on reflection we were wrangling with issues of value, object-images, collections, consumption, globalization and categorization.
The beauty of a drop-in, BYOP (project) event is that if you're feeling a little shy, at least you have your work to focus until you're comfortable enough to mingle. The tables soon filled up with conversation-starters beyond the beer and wine: stabby felt needles, crochet and rug hooks, Thai take-out, Sharpies on canvas, a digital drawing pad and an old manual typewriter.
You play, you learn — about other methods, applications, directions. And you get to hang with people not typical of your usual social circle. To me it was worth the admission-by-donation just to get a glimpse of the unrestrained mind of Billy Patko (below, left). Which got me thinking: what would Patko's prolific doodles look like in a large-scale format? (See Photoshop'd sketch, below.)