2014 Austin Bucket List: Junk City at The Thinkery

bucketlist1Here at LiveMom, we put out a call to a few of our friends to see if anyone else wanted to join us on our Bucket List Adventure for 2014. The idea was to get out there and do one thing we’ve always wanted to do in Austin…about one per month. It might be with kids, might be without. Either way, we’re going to report back to you on how it went. If you go to the page with all of our lists, you can see which ones we have completed and written about.

We’re thrilled that Skye Kilaen joined us on our quest! Last we heard from her, she and Boy Detective made the ultimate sacrifice: taste testing a Coolhaus ice cream sandwich. This time, they checked out the brand-new exhibit at the Thinkery. Here’s what she shared about that experience:

We do a terrible job getting to museum special exhibits! I usually find out about them when they’re already in progress, bookmark them, then find the bookmark two weeks after it’s over. Or we just wander into a museum and find something good, intend to go back, but then forget. So “get better at seeing museum exhibits” was not on my Bucket List, but I thought it was in the same spirit for us to work on this problem so we could experience more of what Austin museums have to offer.

That being the situation, when the Thinkery member newsletter announced their new Junk City exhibit, I made a bold daring decision… to put the opening day on my calendar. (I know, how am I not president of a large company yet?) IT WORKED! It just opened last week and we’ve already been.

Boy Detective was not excited about it when I described it to him, as an entire miniature city made from recycled materials. Apparently what I didn’t explain was that kids can make stuff to add to the neighborhood, and that’s the part that grabbed him.

Once he realized he was going to make one too, the city itself got more interesting as he looked for inspiration. They have tons of recyclable materials for the kids to use as well as markers, tape, stickers, glue, and other more traditional art stuff. We were there on a Sunday afternoon and there were plenty of Thinkery staff present who offered help finding that special something if a kiddo got stuck on their building project.

The finished product (the one nestled in the back with four hand-drawn windows):

We were lucky enough to have two adults and one kid there, so I had plenty of time to check out the artist-created Junk City itself while Boy Detective worked on his house. Guest artist Zach Dorn did an amazing job! I just wish the staff were a little more diligent about helping kids remember not to touch the exhibit… since I saw plenty of parents who weren’t helping their kids respect the signs.Advertisement

Junk City is set up on tables that have crawl spaces underneath, so kids can go through and come up in the middle of two different parts of the city. One is inside a cardboard building and they can peek out the windows. One is in back of the drive-in movie theater. I was unclear whether kids were allowed to turn on the light and do a shadow puppet show themselves, or whether that was only done by staff, but I didn’t take the chance to ask anyone.

There’s a scavenger hunt where kids can check off different materials that were used as they spot them in the city.

I was most charmed by the use of dominoes for windows, and light bulbs for hot air balloons.

It was a neat change of pace to our usual Thinkery trip through the basic exhibits!

Two key things we’ve learned from multiple trips to the Thinkery: only do a few things each time you go, and the outdoor playscape is always going to be one of those things (no matter how bad the weather.) Speaking of the weather, the eating area downstairs is between two external doors, which people will be opening and closing repeatedly while you shiver your way through your snack bar. Plan to keep your jacket on most of the time.

For hours and other details, the Thinkery has a Visit Us page. Wednesday night from 5-8pm and Sunday from 5-6pm, admission is “by donation” meaning pay what you can.