Kaleideum's Prop Shop inspires a young generation of artists
You’re never too young to become a theatre kid. At least that’s the case at the Prop Shop at Kaleideum Downtown, an innovative makerspace that combines theatre, science and creativity for children of all ages.
The Prop Shop, funded through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), opened this past spring and has quickly become a favorite exhibit of the Winston-Salem museum’s young visitors.
For UNCSA Scene Design alumnus John Bowhers (D&P ’12), the space brings the creative problem-solving he learned as an undergraduate into focus for some of the youngest and most enthusiastic members of the community. And it’s a natural extension of his work as co-founder of the Winston-Salem children’s theatre company Peppercorn Theatre, also part of Kaleideum.
Every production should be magical and invite a child to learn how the process works.
“Every production should be magical and invite a child to learn how the process works,” Bowhers says. The Prop Shop space is filled with opportunities to make that magic happen—through creation, collaboration, exploration and performance.
“We make things that tell stories,” says Becca Drew Ramsey, Kaleideum’s Creative Making and Learning Manager. “I love it when kids come in with an idea,” she says. “I’m just amazed at the ways they come up with to use the materials and invent their own designs.”
The Prop Shop is largely project-based, all about getting kids to solve challenges and learn new skills. Projects usually take the form of a question, something like “How can I turn a sock into a puppet?” It’s not a craft, Ramsey says, but an opportunity for kids to make their own designs.
Projects like puppet-making, paper wig-making or circuit-building rotate on a weekly basis, giving visitors ample opportunity to try out new designs or come up with multiple ideas using real tools and real materials that might be found backstage at any theatre.
“The reality of the space is something that’s very important,” Bowhers says. “It’s not just an imitation of a performance space or theatre. We give kids access to all of the actual tools.”
To that end, the exhibit director consulted with members of the UNCSA Design & Production faculty in the Wig & Makeup, Lighting, Sound Design and other departments during the design phase of the Prop Shop itself, seeking to answer a single question: If you were going to let a 4-year-old into your space, what would you let them play with?