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posted: 9/15/2012 10:06 AM

DuPage Children's Museum exhibit lets kids take a train through their imaginations

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They're two, they're four, they're six, they're eight, just like in the Thomas the Train song. And at the DuPage Children's Museum, there's plenty of opportunities for shunting trucks and hauling freight.

But unlike Thomas the Train's traditional train-scape, the museum's new train exhibit creates an abstract journey limited only by a child's own imagination.

"It's a very traditional children's museum activity, and we've given it a very unique twist," said Peter Crabbe, the museum's director of exhibits.

The revamped exhibit, "Trains -- All Aboard Art!" opens Monday with an artistic spin on the traditional train play that children know and love.

"It's a whole new take on trains," said Marcia MacRae, interdisciplinary arts specialist. "Every time you see a train set, it's in a realistic setting. This is something very different. This is where art, math and science -- where they all intersect."

Located on the second floor within the Interact with Art Gallery, this new exhibit expands upon last year's first phase called "Trains -- Get on Board."

Children can use a crane to load train cars or build their own tracks. They can watch an electric train from the viewpoint of the conductor via a video camera connected to the front of a train and projected onto a TV.

Kids can search for hidden pictures in an 8-foot mural of artist Don Stewart's "Steam Train." They can role-play being a passenger, conductor or ticket seller from a life size play train and ticket window. Or they can imagine a train trip through a far off land while watching a model train move through cubist artist Gino Severini's depiction of "Red Cross Train."

"It could be anywhere. It's not a realist landscape. There are references to things that look like trees or buildings," Crabbe said.

By leaving room for imagination, it inspires further conversations and opportunities for interaction between parent and child.

"We know that children can look at something abstract and bring their observations to it," MacRae said. "You don't need to sugar coat it. Children can look at something in a more sophisticated way. We're very excited to do it in this way, and it'll help us do a bit more research at how children look at art."

On Friday, Sept. 21, children can make their own train cars out of cardboard boxes that they'll be able to take home. Meanwhile, drop-in art activities will focus on a train theme for the next two weeks.

New fall hours also begin this week: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. On the third Thursday of each month, the museum is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The exhibit is free with the cost of admission. Prices are $9.50 per person ages one to 59 and $8.50 for seniors 60 and older.

For information, call (630) 637-8000 or visit dupagechildrensmuseum.org.

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