‘More Than A Toy’ Exhibition Highlights Designer Art Toys; Engages Visitors with Difficult Conversations’

‘More Than A Toy’ Exhibition Highlights Designer Art Toys; Engages Visitors with Difficult Conversations’

A new exhibit at Syracuse University’s Sue and Leon Genet Gallery at the School of Design features 285 toys. Not one of them, however, is to be played with.

More Than a Toy highlights designer art toys, which, despite their name, are art objects produced for aesthetic and conceptual purposes, often as vehicles to deliver messages about critical societal topics.

The designer art toy movement was born in the mid-1990s when youth interest in small trinkets released in limited quantities by clothing stores caught the attention of art entrepreneurs.

“The exhibit offers an overview of the history, design processes and mass market appeal that elevated designer art toys from niche collectibles to a recognized contemporary art form,” said Ethan Clearfield, curator and M.A. candidate in Museum Studies at Syracuse University. “We are asking visitors to remember that the collection represents more than toys,” Clearfield said. “They are works of art, messages, statements, barrier breakers, conversation starters and vehicles for change."

The two-part exhibition is the first to place new focus on the innovators working in this cutting-edge art form and the topics they are tackling including mental health, climate change, the drug epidemic, COVID-19, racial injustice, environmental degradation and more. “I designed this exhibition to provide visitors with an opportunity to understand the impact of our global society, to understand how their choices impact the planet and one another,” Clearfield said. “After viewing the show, I hope visitors will realize that they are never going through any hardships alone.”

The exhibition also features two programs open to Syracuse University students and faculty. The first is a DIY custom art toy workshop with Australian artist Dave Behrens on Friday, May 7th at 6:00 PM. (registration required, learn more). The second is a power of art and wellness program with Lena DeLeo, a certified art therapist that is sponsored by CNY Safe Space and planned for May 13.

More Than a Toy will be on view April 26 through May 22 at the Nancy Cantor Warehouse, 350 W. Fayette Street, Syracuse, NY.

The exhibition is open to the public, but due to University COVID-19 protocols it will be available to the public by appointment only. Appointments can be made by contacting Clearfield at emclearf@syr.edu. The exhibition will also be online at @more_than_a_toy on Instagram.

About the Sue and Leon Genet Gallery

Based in the School of Design at the Nancy Cantor Warehouse, the Sue and Leon Genet Gallery is a student-managed space hosting exhibitions from the school’s students, faculty, and alumni. Programing seeks to engage the University and downtown Syracuse community with exhibitions inspired by and related to the field of design.

Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Friday 12-5 pm, or by appointment.

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