500 Clown

The Art of Experience

As the 2014–2015 Interpreters in Residence, Adrian Danzig and Rebecca Stevens debuted The Art of Experience: The Smart Museum, the first visual arts project from Chicago’s 500 Clown.

With The Art of Experience, 500 Clown invited visitors to draw cards from a custom-designed deck of prompts that played with the idea of what is supposed to happen when visiting an art museum. Each card was an invitation—"Write a letter to the artist whose piece of art annoys or angers you," "Convince yourself that you love something in the room," "Which work of art has one of your perfections?"—that encouraged visitors to think differently about museums, works of art, and artists: provoking laugher, conversation, wonder, and other experiences. 

The project was inspired by the philosophy of John Dewey—a onetime professor at the University of Chicago and author of the influential book Art as Experience (1934)—and by Howard Gardner’s seminal research and theory of multiple intelligences. It encouraged visitors to directly engage with and interpret the art around them using their own expertise, whether kinesthetic, social, logical, linguistic, or spiritual. 

The Art of Experience sought to explore the museum’s relevancy in today’s world as culture has shifted from fixed ideas of value, meaning and expertise to a dynamic mode steeped in conversation, listening, and iterative practice without losing rigorous standards of excellence and connection to history.

The Art of Experience was one of several experiments and interactive experiences that was based in GalleryX during the Smart Museum’s 40th anniversary season.

At the Threshold

Hosted by the Smart’s Interpreters in Residence, the quarterly At the Threshold social hour features libations and live music and provides common ground for lively conversation surrounding art, culture, and ideas.

At the Threshold
Thursday, October 2, 2014
Celebrating the debut of the Art of Experience, with tours led by Honeybuns the clown and drinks provided by the Punch Trunk.

At the Threshold
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Social hour featuring performances by the Nexus Project. 

At the Threshold
Thursday, June 4, 2015
A free evening of art and literature with Write Club Chicago, "the world's greatest competitive reading series."

About 500 Clown

500 Clown seeks to shift audiences from passive observers to active participants through humor, games, play, deep listening, and invitations to fun. After 15 years of theater-making in Chicago, the company has started to bring 500 Clown-style experiences to other realms. Working with cultural institutions and other partners, 500 Clown creates custom-built experiences and workshops for diverse groups.

Adrian Danzig is 500 Clown’s cofounder and currently its Creative Director. Rebecca Stevens is the company’s Design and Strategy Lead.

About the Interpreter in Residence program

Established in 2013, the Interpreter in Residence is a yearlong program designed as a forum for Chicago-based artists and educators with an interest in social engagement to create participatory art experiences with Smart Museum guests.

The residency, organized by the Smart’s Public Practice department, is informed by art and ideas drawn from the Smart’s collections and exhibitions as well as issues and questions that are critical to the Museum’s institutional practice. The Smart invites artists to participate in the program who approach similar sets of questions in their work. We hope that their engagement at the Museum offers an opportunity for sustained investigation into these questions that benefit both their and our practice.

Through public programs and other ephemeral activities, the interpreters in residence help create a critical commons where we can engage with art, ideas, and one another.


Top: During their residency, 500 Clown teamed up with Honeybuns the mime for a tour of the Smart Museum that defied categorization.