The Wall Street Journal — March 26, 2012

On Sunday, RxArt, which brings art to hospitals to improve the patient experience, inspire hope and promote healing, will host its first “Avant Garde Preschool,” a master class started by Partners & Spade that caters to children ages 5 to 12. Previously, Thurston Moore, Donald Baechler and Confetti System have participated; Sunday’s will be with Dan Colen.

“Dan is a good friend of RxArt and we love his work,” said Diane Brown, the president and founder of the 11-year-old organization, which has, for instance, asked Jeff Koons to gussy up a CT scanner.

Mr. Colen uses gum and other kinds of candy sometimes in lieu of paint.

“I just thought it would be so much fun for kids and their parents. Wouldn’t you choose Dan? Everyone is going to want to be 5 to 12 on Sunday.” Ms. Brown said the event is limited to 20 kids and “oversold in an hour.” She is hoping it will be a regular monthly occurrence.

Mr. Colen has worked with RxArt before. He has made a puzzle, donated works to the organization’s auctions and contributed to its coloring books.

Beyond that, “I’ve had different children’s groups in my studio before and I’m interested in outreach and working with different communities, I told Diane I’d be down to do this.” he said. “Basically what I do in my studio can transfer pretty well to working with children.”

On Sunday, Mr. Colen will have the group of kids do works on paper using flowers and M&Ms.

“I don’t want to oversimplify for them,” he said. “The point is to explore the possibilities with these different objects. I use water with them, and any mark is legitimate and any part of the M&M can make the mark. Mostly it’s with the dye and I roll them across the paper and it’s like a pencil mark, but sometimes we wheedle it down to the chocolate as well. It’s actually kind of beautiful. Hypothetically, you could smash the candy, melt it, step on it or chew it up. With the flowers, it’s more or less the same thing.”

“What’s interesting,” Mr. Colen went on, “is that the kids can make as legitimate pieces of art as my studio can make. This will be the same thing I do every day, except it’s more fun to work with 5-year-olds than 25-year-olds. It’s a simple set of directions, but, really, there are none. It’s interesting to talk to them about the rules or lack thereof of what art is.”

He added, “Worst-case scenario, they eat the M&Ms and they’re happy.”

  • -Marshall Heyman