From afar, perhaps it doesn’t look all that unique: an interactive kids’ exhibit in the mold of the post-Harry Potter swords-and-spells fairytale. Kids can scale a rope ladder, don a felt blade or have an imaginary feast at the royal banquet table. Nothing revolutionary, right?
But if you dig deeper into Once Upon a Castle, the progressive underpinnings become clear. The newest exhibit from the Chicago Children’s Museum was explicitly engineered to allow children to play and explore the site in a way that doesn’t fortify gender stereotypes.
Kids are encouraged to act the roles they choose fit best for them—without the subtle (or not-so-subtle) hand of inherited traditionalism guiding the way. Among the forward-thinking tweaks in the playland castle environment: kids are offered wizard hats rather than crowns; the castle guard, say, or feast preparer aren’t predetermined based on binary assumptions; and you won’t see traditional gendered outfits like gowns or armor.
“The narrative for castles is usually packaged with kings, queens and singing princesses,” said CCM President and CEO Jennifer Farrington in a release. “Our take on castle play removes the predictable script and allows children the freedom to build their own narrative.”
The smart-approach concept was developed with Luci Creative, a Lincolnwood-based creative design agency, who’s done a host of work for cultural institutions (Chicago Sports Museum, Baha’i Temple Visitors Center) and corporate clients.
AJ Goehle, Luci’s director of strategy and design said that Castle represents “a unique opportunity to put our team’s theater experience into practice by creating a play-based environment that ditches stereotypes and inspires children’s imaginations to shine.”
In a city where even our building codes for restaurant restrooms could stand a little more progressive clarification, we’ll raise our goblet to that.
Once Upon a Castle is open through May 14. General admission for the museum is $14 for adults and children, $13 for seniors.
Read the original article on Chicagoist.