The word “Leonardo” brings to mind not just the name of an artist, creator and scientist, but also a legacy shared with the many generations after the great da Vinci, from poets to the masters of mechanical sciences.
The museum created in his name, the Leonardo, epitomizes those very traits, as summarized by the museum’s website itself, “The Leonardo is a contemporary Sci+Tech+Art museum, where today’s big ideas, questions, inventions and discoveries are connected in a whole new way.”
Its mission: to inspire creativity while providing outlets for art, science and exploration while simultaneously focusing on both our surrounding environment and also what is within ourselves.
Having opened on October 8th, the Leonardo is housed in the midst of downtown Salt Lake City, next to the glass-paned City Library, making it perfectly situated as a museum of choice. Unlike many museums, the Leonardo is focused on being an exploratory experience, with an emphasis on tactile presentations rather than stationary exhibits off limits to human influence.
For example, the first thing a patron may see upon walking into the front are motion-based sculptures hanging from the ceiling. At first glance they seem like a pretty tangle of dangling snowflakes hanging in ivy-like streams. But movement affects the living sculpture, much like a ballet dancer caught mid-motion, as lights begin to flicker on and off as its delicate fronds waft through.
Meanwhile, to the left of the entryway, a massive electronic “sculpture” marks the entrance to the actual gallery while also revealing world-wide seismic activity through a series of lights. Examples such as these are all before one has even seen the exhibits themselves.
The building is essentially split into two floors with two themes. The first is that of our surrounding environment, and increases our awareness of it. The second an introspective look at the individual, or the experiences of other individuals as patrons are given a literal “walk in their shoes.”
One example of the first theme is a raised circular platform in which you can zoom in on any area of the world using satellite images and the hand application of plus and minus foot-based buttons. There’s also a station in which you can figure out the demographic information of where you live, or have a moment of pondering as you note your favorite “secret spot” on a leaf-like piece of paper.
Stations that show math’s impact on art and a space for guest artists also exist on the main floor. Last week, employees from Broken Compass Studios were on hand presenting their upcoming video game for the iPad and iPhone (and also later for the Droid), “Catball Eats It All.”
The game is a traditional painting-turned-street-style graphic imagery game of the Katamari Damacy variety. A pseudo-gallery and mechanical setup in which viewers are allowed a glimpse at game creation development from the creators themselves halfway through a production could be seen.
“We’re looking forward to letting everyone see how we do it and also participate in the process,” Jeff Hsu, the producer of the project, said.
The upstairs level of the Leonardo is devoted to a diversity gallery, emotionally stirring as it is explored, and an entire floor dedicated to developing and recognizing one’s own identity while also developing empathy for others.
There exists an artist’s haven, full and freshly made of inspiration, as the history of animation is explained followed immediately by examples of current animation practices. Motion capture, stop-animation, the use of green screen and pressure-sensitive computer screens with painting programs and literal brushes, ready for use are all displayed. Even the idea of “walking in someone else’s shoes” is explored, as patrons are literally strapped into false limbs similar to those used by amputees.
All in all, the Leonardo holds within it representations of the content of four museums combined, creating a mirror of what influences us as human beings both inside and out.
Student tickets run $10 and admission is $14 for adults.
To check dates, events, guests lists and prices visit www.theleonardo.org