On a busy weekend morning at the San Diego Children's Museum, there will often be a queue to get in. But on Dec. 7, the line of bright-eyed kids and their parents began at the entrance and worked its way out. Approaching the museum, you may have noted this abnormality; and yet it would have been a 25-foot tall Eiffel Tower replica that grabbed your attention first. The Eiffel Tower, along with a two-story fiberglass tree and an old-fashioned handloom, were among the many museum fixtures on sale this past Saturday.
The San Diego Children's Museum currently occupies a battered downtown factory-warehouse, but come 2003, the facility will have a new and modern building to call home. Same location, same friendly staff-what you won't find are many of the old exhibits. Those, alas, have already found new homes.
Just ask Teem Osborne of City Heights, who purchased a 20-foot-long papier-mâché dragon and a 1920s cast iron bathtub. Osborne intends to house the latter in his back yard, “for bathing in the summertime-like a poor man's Jacuzzi.” Of this rare find (and source of more than one collector's envy), he mused, “I'm interested in art in its rough state.”
Would a contemporary, blue post office box qualify as art? North County resident Peter Davis exercises no pretensions regarding his. “I love unusual things. This [post office box] will go in my living room, between a gas pump and an old bumper car.” At $20, Davis' find was a steal, and having accrued interesting relics at swap meets for the past 40 years, he knows a bargain when he sees one.
But today, seasoned collectors weren't the only ones coming up on hot deals. Eight-year-old Briannah Grove was pleased with her purchase, a cache of check-and-balance books. “These are for keeping records,” the young entrepreneur explained. “At home, I own a store.” Taylor and Ashley, Briannah's older siblings, were quick to add, “Anything in the house is for sale.”
Parents, there you have it: bring your kids to the San Diego Children's Museum and they will emerge even smarter than they were before. It frequently hosts hands-on projects with acclaimed artists such as Faith Ringold, Deloss McGraw and James Wans, among others. And yes, an entire gallery's worth of paintings changed hands on Saturday.
So, what about the frames? Naturally these were also sold-often separately from the paintings, and at prices that would compel even the most starving of artists to load up on fresh canvases. Leigh Timmons owns and operates the Courtyard Gallery in Rancho Santa Fe. Timmons bought seven elegant frames, and while she paid only $65 in sum, the frames were appraised at up to $300 each. Call it a happy-go-lucky assumption, but these are business transactions from which everyone emerges a winner. In contemporary, espresso-paced culture, art is a small, good thing-a way to slow life down.
The Children's Museum prides itself in providing an interactive opportunity for kids to learn through arts rather than sciences, in perpetuating the creative cycle. Consider The Peace Garden-no, it's not that groovy place where all the hippies hang out. A collaborative brainchild of children and elderly folks, the intact display featured “grandmother” trees on the walls and “fresh” leaves on the ground.
Before individual pieces of the garden went their separate ways, they collectively formed what museum Assistant Director Jennifer Case calls “the Inner Garden-those tiny elements which nourish joy, hope, forgiveness.” Well, maybe that is just a little bit groovy. Case best summed up the spirit of the museum's “garage sale” when she enthused, “People are bringing home with them a piece of history, and the magic of the Children's Museum is spreading throughout the community.”
Indeed, most buyers left the scene satisfied. They carried away-or in some cases lugged-enormous piñatas, decorated car tires, a complete Mexican village made of wood. One family found themselves the proud owners of a die-cast, commercial Jolly Rancher candy dispenser. And while certain eccentricities like the vintage egg incubator were sadly left unclaimed, the event was an overwhelming success; by the time the “old” San Diego Children's Museum closed its gates around 3:30 p.m., the lure of its thousand-and-one curiosities had pulled in well over 500 visitors.
Some were content merely to browse but ended up making purchases, anyway-purchases not necessarily large or rare or wondrous. Tristan Wand, a student and newspaper intern who resides in Pacific Beach, took home a handsome but otherwise ordinary basket that he plans to fill with potpourri and give to his mother for Christmas. When a museum staff member pointed out that she'd seen similar baskets at Pier One Imports, Wand replied, “Yes, but not for 50 cents!”
Just don't go and tell his mother that.