I presented a few options for narrators and storylines to the kids—a female fool, a kid their age living in 1600s Flanders, or an animal (since many of the paintings in the exhibition feature animals). They weren't interested in the female fool but were excited at the idea of a kid their age from the time period, just as long as the kid also had a pet. Thet decided the pet should be a dog named Ruffus—pronounced R-uh-fus, not Roofus. I asked why that pronunciation and they said, "Because dogs say 'ruff!'" Makes sense to me.
This is the joy of working with artists and community. To see a group of kids excited by Flemish art and helping us make decisions about programming is empowering, fun, and somewhat humbling. Had I not asked these kids to participate, I may have written a character and story that would not be engaging for young people who come to see the show. And I even still got to make one of the stops in the guide focused on a female fool, allowing visitors to meet her and listen to her cringe court jester humor.
We wanted to engage our young audiences further with an interactive activity, so we asked our friend and seamstress Bee Angela to create clothing based on the artworks. The result of her work was a whole theater cart of costumes inspired by the Flemish clothing of the time period. Want to go try on what Prince Willem wore in 1600s Flanders? How about felling what it’s like to try on a jester’s hat? In Family Central (on level 2 of the Martin Building), kids can do just that and act out a scene from the painting (there’s even props to help with storytelling!). We hope trying on these costumes will spark their imaginations even further.