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I’m a big proponent of visiting museums and doing hands-on crafts with children, but once in a while a creative app comes along for the iPad that is so good, it makes me feel more than OK about screen time. MoMA Art Lab, by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is one such app. True, it won’t replace an in-person visit to one of MoMA’s Family Programs, but it’s the next best thing.
The app helps children create their own projects with a simple interface, but with serious role models; Henri Matisse, Elizabeth Murray, Jean Arp, Jim Lambie and Brice Marden serve as inspiration. While the app is targeted at children, with a special read-aloud feature for pre-readers, it’s also fun and educational for adults.
The interface is taken up primarily with a blank canvas. On the left are three icons, one for ideas, a second for artist-inspired activities and a third to hold your gallery of saved works. On the bottom of the screen you’ll find a slider with lots of geometric and irregular shapes, a color picker and a pencil icon that toggles a few brushes, line tools and an eraser.
The 17 ideas are apt considering the brand. They include suggestions like “Make a pattern using only straight lines. Will you use color?” and simpler fare like using shapes to create animals.
The six “ideas” are the most compelling aspect of MoMA Art Lab. Kids can make sound compositions, generate random collages, create shape poems or try Matisse’s method of “drawing with scissors.” One sweet little touch is that the app saves new shapes that kids create in the main menu for future use,
The shapes are simple to manipulate, although if you are an adult used to sophisticated art apps, it takes a little unlearning to get the hang of layering, resizing and rotating objects. The drawing tools are fine too, but there is no way to adjust line width, something likely only to frustrate adults. One thing all ages might want to see added is an undo option. Right now, if you accidentally add an extra shape you can try to erase it without touching the rest of the piece or you have to throw the whole thing away.
Beyond those small details, this children’s art app is, in and of itself, a work of art. Everything about MoMA Art Lab is vibrant and inviting. It’s certain to stimulate creativity and an appreciation for unconventional art techniques in users young and old.