Kids help curate new sectors of Bay Area art scene

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Bay Area artist Sofie Ramos specializes in large-scale installations comprised of found objects: chairs, textured cushions, stairs and giant bouncy balls, to name a few. But until recently, she didn’t plan for the chairs to be sat on, or the steps to be stepped on.

Yet, with Ramos’ recent installation for the new children’s play space Wild Child, in Oakland, things are different; barefoot kids mount the “sculptures,” swing on the fuzzy pink swing, play with the massive “curtains” made of plastic chain links. It’s typical playground mayhem, with a side of top-notch art.

The art world and the realm of children’s activities, two spheres unthinkable together until very recently, are merging in the Bay Area. Wild Child, conceptualized and founded by entrepreneur Ligaya Tichy, has commissioned, in addition to Ramos, the works of other local artists, including Katie Gong and Meryl Pataky.

Fox & Kit, the insanely popular indoor playground in San Rafael, is an art installation in its own right, created in the best traditions of Japanese and Danish architecture. And don’t forget that the de Young Museum opened its de Youngsters Studio exactly a year ago, offering children-tailored insights about the museum’s collections and sensory, tech-powered art activities.

Part of the strengthening bond between art and children’s play areas is, according to some, due to the growing interest in all things experiential — another aspect of the “Instagram museum” era, when everything we do has to be shareable and visually pleasing.

Tichy sees Wild Child as both a product of the trend, and a pushback.

“When my daughter was young, I’d take her to museums, and she’d want to climb on the sculpture, touch the art and I thought, ‘What if we could have an experience similar to the Ice Cream Museum, but instead of being focused on Instagram, and the adult experience, we could bring the arts to the kids,’ ” Tichy says.

“Tactile, experiential, immersive things are very exciting right now, especially with people with families,” says Pataky, a neon light artist who contributed a pair of neon sharks to Wild Child. They safely float above the ground, away from curious little hands.

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