Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Destination: Take a spin on Ackland Art Museum's giant tops

Posted July 20, 2017 8:52 p.m. EDT

Installed in late March, the giant spinning tops, part of a temporary exhibit at the Ackland Art Museum and across the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, have proved popular - on social media and in real life.

"People have been really excited about them," Audrey Shore, Ackland's communications assistant, tells me. "There's a lot of Instagram action with them."

As I wrote in the spring, the interactive art installation, called Los Trompos, is designed by Mexican designers Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena and inspired by spinning tops, the children’s toys that are popular around the world. The pieces are made of fabric woven in a traditional style by Mexican artisans.

The four large-scale tops at Ackland come in different shapes and colors. The UNC-Chapel Hill campus has three other tops - two in the courtyard in front of the Campus Y and one at Ram's Head Plaza.Visitors are invited to sit and spin in them. It's open 24 hours a day, daily, through Sept. 17. They are among the 41 free activities featured in Go Ask Mom's summer activity guide this year.

I finally had a chance to get over there this month to check them out. The tops at Ackland are big and durable. The kids in my group had a great time taking turns pushing them and riding in them - or jumping in mid-push. They might be tricky for very young kids to move, but, for the grade schooler and tweens in my group, it was no problem (even when I sat inside one).

We probably spent almost 30 minutes checking each of the four tops out before we headed down a couple of blocks to Morehead Planetarium to take in a free Science Live! show. But there's plenty inside Ackland for kids and families if you want to beat the heat after playing on the tops. And admission into the museum also is free.

Here are some events and activities coming up:

  • 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, July 23, is Family and Friends Sunday. The free event, offered monthly, includes splatter painting outside this week and a scavenger hunt and in-gallery activities for grade schoolers.
  • Studio Saturday is Aug. 12 where Art Adventures is offered for kids ages 6 to 9 and Drawing for Tweens is offered for ages 9 to 13. Drawing in the Galleries also is offered and usually draws an older crowd - teens and up. Online registration is encouraged as these can fill up, especially Art Adventures. ​
  • 2 p.m., every Wednesday, Ackland offers a free guided tour of a gallery. Shore says docents will tailor the tour to the audience.

But, if you just want to explore the galleries on a random day, Shore suggested some must-see exhibits.

Miguel Angel Rios's "A Morir," is a three-channel video installation that features 30 of the most skilled "trompos" or tops players in a Mexican town. It's viewed from multiple perspectives and is a great exhibit to pair with a trip to the giant tops outside.

Court and Capital: Art from Asia's Greatest Cities features some colorful kimonos and dresses that kids have been particularly taken with, Shore said.

And, "One of Many," another exhibition, includes Howard Hodgkin’s "As Time Goes By," which measures eight-feet tall by 20-feet wide. 

"It's along an entire wall. It's massive," Shore said. "You catch a lot of kids looking up in awe at this giant print."

Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. For more, check our posts on parks and playgrounds and Triangle family destinations.