AHOY is a progressive, exciting new venture and addition to Portland Museum focused on creating an immersive, experiential children’s space. AHOY will include outdoor play areas as well as indoor play areas within a renovated Victorian property adjacent to the Portland Museum.
Bringing explorable and immersive art experiences to the children of Louisville and the Kentuckiana area!
Inspired by the gonzo creativity of the City Museum in St. Louis, the repurposed Victorian architecture of the Gilbert House in Oregon, and the immersive magic of Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, AHOY will be a unique twist to the often-predictable children’s museum experience.
Thematically, AHOY reflects Kentucky’s maritime heritage, based on the Ohio River that cradles our Port-Land and inspires our rich neighborhood folklore. But instead of the typical photos and physical artifacts associated with museum nautical exhibits, AHOY aims to engage a child’s natural curiosity by activating all of the senses.
AHOY begins as a portal (or “PORTL”) through a wall of the existing Portland Museum building, taking young visitors through a mysterious tunnel – glowing with old projector displays – before exploding into the natural light of a glass atrium. The atrium contains a large staircase and an elevator for wheelchair access, physically connecting to the Adventure House of You: A renovated 19th century farmhouse where local heritage meets surrealism.
A hallway leads into the mouth of a giant catfish where a dining room should be, the underwater-themed walls decorated with blown glass bubbles and river rock mosaics. Another direction takes visitors across a life-sized deck of a boat in the parlor room, before winding up a gorgeous historic staircase with miniature lights twinkling out from the exposed lathe above.
On the second floor, several smaller rooms are decorated with artistically-arranged local found objects. A closet looks unassuming until the door is opened to reveal thousands of marbles grouted into the walls, backlit and radiant. An office walled in elaborately carved tree trunks encourages tactile experimentation. Giant webbed seabird feet appear to be breaking through the master bedroom ceiling, either coming in for a landing in the equally-giant driftwood nest that takes over the room, or maybe taking flight to dodge a hunter’s shotgun blast. Either way, it’s clear something is going on in that attic. Winding through several more tactile rooms and finally up another staircase will reveal the top level’s secrets, as well as a large slide that shoots back down two floors to start all over again. A children’s steering committee will be formed with local neighborhood kids, to directly source ideas about what the target audience wants to see and experience in AHOY. These ideas will then become the inspiration for the interior art/play installations, crafted by Louisville’s deep well of local sculptors, carvers, mechanics and painters.