Experience The Art of Burning Man (with kids!) at the Renwick in DC

The Renwick Gallery, located on 17th and Pennsylvania Ave NW
Shrumen Lumen – you can operate the expanding tops with your feet

When it comes to visiting museums with kids in DC, people often flock to the big names: Air and Space, Natural History, American History. But for the last few years, since it’s grand renovation and reopening, the oft-overlooked Renwick Gallery has boasted two awe-inspiring art exhibits that are a delight to curious minds of all ages. 

If you have been on social media lately, perhaps you’ve seen images from the Renwick Gallery’s latest museum-takeover exhibit, No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man. Now, if you’re like me, you’re about as likely to get to the actual Burning Man festival as Congress is to grant DC Statehood; you might want it, but it isn’t going to happen. So, metro, drive, or walk on over to this gem and experience a little desert art festival that is completely kid-friendly right here in DC. 

The author’s child takes a peek inside a scene in “Paper Arch”

So far, I’ve taken my girls (2 and 4) to this art exhibit at the Renwick twice. I was pleasantly surprised by how the large-scale installations appeal to children. One security guard even said to me, “Remember, the kids can touch almost everything!” While you certainly want your children to show some restraint around certain exhibits, it is refreshing that there are some very interactive pieces of art for kids to enjoy. 

The Art Exhibits

The many art exhibits at the Renwick are split amongst two floors. One the bottom floor, kids will marvel at works such as otherworldly costumes, a giant metallic statue of a female dancer (Truth is Beauty), and Tin Pan Dragon boat. Don’t miss the enormous Paper Arch with several peepholes where you can glance inside and view a tiny fantastical scene. Kids ages 12 and older can partake in a virtual reality station (fair warning, expect a long line for this attraction).

“Truth is Beauty”

Upstairs features the more interactive works. Both of my girls’ favorite was the Shrumen Lumen, three enormous mushrooms whose tops fold in and out by command of a giant button. This is also a great exercise in patience for little ones, as you have to wait for the circle to turn fully green before you can step on it and activate change. Also upstairs is HYBYCOZO, an art exhibit with three giant metal polyhedral sculptures that are simply stunning when reflecting changing colored lights. Visitors can even go inside the largest of the three. 

Perhaps the most stunning upstairs display is Temple, an enormous display made from intricately carved wood. The Temple’s purpose is to provide a sacred space where you can write a note or testament to someone in your life on a wooden card and add it to the walls of the room. Climb on the steps and sit on the thrones! Wonder will fill children and adults alike once they step inside.

The author’s daughters inside the “Temple”

Renwick Visiting Tips

The lines can get long on the weekend. Get speedy stroller/handicap access at the basement-level side entrance on 17th Street. Drop off strollers in the guarded room and take the elevator up. Note: the Renwick allows strollers in the exhibit on less busy days, Monday – Thursday. If you need to stop and nurse a baby or bribe a toddler with a quick snack, there is also a large, handicap-accessible bathroom in that bottom entrance with a small chair. 

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man exhibit runs until January 2019, and will close in two phases. I recommend seeing it in its entirety before the first phase ends on September 16th, 2018. And fully charge your camera before you go – you’re going to want to take a lot of pictures!  

Inside one of the polyhedral structures in HYBYCOZO