Head to the New RI Museum of Science and Art

RIMOSA's new bricks and mortar location packs a lot of fun into a small space.

Thrice as nice at RIMOSA’s Bending Light exhibit.

Doodlebots, shadow puppets and a wind machine: Parents and the kiddos will have a blast exploring the brand new Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art (RIMOSA) in Providence this weekend.

RIMOSA, which has hosted pop-up Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) programming in libraries and schools for the last seven years, landed its first bricks and mortar location at 763 Westminster Street, which it shares with the education nonprofit, Inspiring Minds.

The place is more of a gallery than a museum, space-wise, but the fun is big. I spent an hour there on Monday and could’ve easily clocked another, all by my lonesome with the DIY zoetrope, below.

While I explored the space, RIMOSA’s founder, Bonnie Epstein, who teaches science at the Rhode Island School of Design, gave me the scoop on the nonprofit’s mission.

“Our goal is to kindle curiosity,” she says. “It’s less about transmitting specific information and more about process.”

RIMOSA offers guided programming, including a very cool Artists and Inventors series, which teaches kids about famous artists and the innovative, scientific techniques they used to make art (think: Calder and his mobiles; Da Vinci and his catapults). The museum also hosts summer camps on animation and reverse engineering, which are very affordable at $75 for ten hours of instruction.

The space is loaded with past projects, including DIY instruments, marble roller coasters, standing mobiles and spin art. The latter exhibit uses physics by way of a bicycle wheel to make very cool, trippy paintings.

Here’s how it works: You blob primary paints in varying viscosity onto paper, then place it on a square platform. You then use the hand crank to spin the paper, which causes the colors to meld together and, sometimes, form secondary colors. The machine was built by local artist David Kunitz, a toy designer.

Epstein says the museum is best-suited for kids eight and older. She’s also found that children of all abilities enjoy the space. Epstein recalls a young boy on the autism spectrum who spent hours investigating the Flight Tube, which shoots handmade items — including streamers and paper plate art — high into the air.

The Wooden Wave exhibition is open-ended. (A hint: you can take the wooden pieces out.)

The museum, which is funded in part by a Rhode Island State Council on the Arts grant, doesn’t come with instructions; most activities are open-ended. Visitors are encouraged to take apart exhibits, make messes and experiment boldly.

RIMOSA does staff docents to help if you get stuck. (Like when I couldn’t figure out what the light pendulum was supposed to do, then I unceremoniously dropped the flashlight. Thankfully, the stuff here is near-indestructible. And the docents don’t judge you if you’re clumsy.)

“It’s not about what you’re supposed to do; it’s what you can do,” Epstein says. “It’s sad that failure has become a bad word…. Try, fail, adjust: It’s what people do here naturally.”

Visit RIMOSA at 763 Westminster St., Providence. Admission is $5 all summer. For more information, go to rimosa.org.

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