The Bales of Woodmere
Every fall, since 2010, the Woodmere Art Museum displays a straw bale maze (aka play sculpture) on their prodigious front lawn in celebration of the Harvest and Harry Potter Festival, the installation remains in situ from September to December. Located near the western boundary of Chestnut Hill, the Woodmere estate provides a rolling park like setting and a welcome destination for visitors from across the region. Its front lawn is bordered by Germantown Avenue and Bells Mill Road which are visually accessible to its stage like front lawn, in which the museum’s Victorian mansion provides a memorable backdrop. In five short years, the fall installation has grown from a humble hay maze into an anticipated celebration of folly. This annual play catalyst received its first sponsor after the 2013 season.
A context such as a maze or game presents a prescribed form of engagement. It dictates experiences by presenting a path - Structured Play.
A context with no explicit direction suggests an open engagement, the terms are decided by the user - Unstructured Play.
Both types of play promote adaptive behaviors and mental states of happiness.
Play can occur without props however environments and materials often act as a catalyst for play.
Over time our generative element, the bale, has changed from a standard size bale (24x48x16) to a six string straw bale of enormous mass (48x84x36) each weighing over 800 pounds dry, almost a half ton. We deploy 84 bales each year, almost 34 tons (67,200 lb.) of straw. The enormous bales are well suited to withstand the elements and large crowds for an extended period of time. After closing, the exhibit is removed, the bales re-enters the local agrarian marketplace as an ingredient for mushroom mulch and animal bedding, remarkably they retain a value.
The design is simply a set of blocks. 84 identical blocks that can be arranged into an infinite number of compositions. The assembly of blocks help to contain three elements: A large red ball, a group of inflated inner tubes and a large collection of rings (aka hula hoops) in varying diameters. There are no rules nor instructions.