New DuPage children's exhibit explores love, forgiveness -- xoxo
Love and forgiveness aren't usually seen in museum exhibits.
Dinosaur fossils and works of fine art and historical documents? Of course. Trains, planes, spacecraft, even antique basketball uniforms or autographed baseballs? Sure. But human emotions?
"This is an entirely new experience for us," said Sarah Orleans, president and CEO of the DuPage Children's Museum.
The new experience in emotion comes from "XOXO: An Exhibit About Love & Forgiveness," which opens at 9 a.m. Saturday. Arriving in Naperville direct from western Pennsylvania, where the exhibit was developed this year by the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, "XOXO" takes up much of the second floor of the museum at 801 N. Washington St.
Created with support from the Michigan-based Fetzer Institute, which works to foster awareness of the power of love and forgiveness, the exhibit encourages hands-on exploration of the mental processes that make up emotions.
"We were selected to be the first site on this national tour as it travels through the country," Orleans said.
The children's museum is displaying "XOXO" to let parents and caregivers interact emotionally with their children through activities that help express, appreciate and understand feelings.
"Little children have a lot of emotional feelings, and part of growing up is emotional intelligence," or learning how to deal with those feelings, said Alison Segebarth, director of marketing for the museum. "We're opening up a dialogue to express emotions."
Mirrors throughout the exhibit allow visitors to observe how their faces change when they show feelings of love, kindness, surprise, anger, sadness. Quotes from thought leaders such as the Dalai Lama remind those who walk through the calm, purple-hued region of XOXO to "be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
Most of the exhibit is interactive. Several features involve writing, while others tie in the sight, sound and touch.
Visitors can become part of a video board that records people's faces expressing adjectives that randomly pop up on a screen, such as happy, surprised or sad.
"Each part of your facial features show the emotion," Segebarth said.
Children and caregivers can write down positive and negative feelings, and put their printed words through simple machines to preserve the positive and shred the negative into a cathartic release.
Loving messages can be rolled into a tube, crushed like a pop can, then flattened further to become a paper coin imprinted with a heart. In an activity called "Release the Negative," visitors can let out their worries, grudges or doubts, then shred the paper so each colorful piece can become part of a collage that will build on the wall.
A thought might start as a long-held fear, but "it's now going to turn into something beautiful," Segebarth said.
Illustrating these emotional thought processes through the use of machines and the development of art is what turns "XOXO" into a true museum exhibit.
"Everything we do at the museum does integrate art, science, math -- even this," Segebarth said.
Employees on Friday put finishing touches on exhibit lighting and layout in advance of an invitation-only event Friday evening. "XOXO" will remain at the DuPage Children's Museum until Feb. 1.