NORMAN — To Kevin Carroll, everybody plays. Basketball, softball, soccer, playground games: “Play” is a universal language.
Carroll’s exhibit “The Art of Sport and Play,” opening Oct. 18 at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History, 2401 Chautauqua Ave., explores just how the concept of play symbolizes life, said Jen Tregarthen, with the museum.
“Every kid has played on a playground at some period in his or her life,” Tregarthen said. “Almost everyone has experienced play on some level and they can relate. This exhibit opens up minds to creativity, to exploring different opportunities.”
Admission to the museum will be free that Saturday and Sunday in conjunction with the exhibit opening.
Carroll’s fascination with play began at a young age. After his parents abandoned him and his two siblings shortly after his birth in 1958, Carroll moved in with his grandparents. To console himself, Carroll sought comfort on the playground.
“The playground and its wide-open field became my friend,” writes Carroll in “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball.” “It was a gathering place. It was a free place. It was there that I discovered sports — and the red rubber ball that fueled my dreams.”
Carroll calls sport a universal, inclusive international language, that teaches “leadership, cooperation and exemplary behavior in both victory and defeat.” Today, Carroll travels telling stories and using lessons garnered from the diversity of play.
Tregarthen said the exhibit features that famous red rubber ball, along with balls from around the world like a banana leaf ball and a twine ball. Some others — like the molecule ball and garbage bag ball — offer a “completely hands-on experience” in the exhibit, and it is for people from all walks of life, young and old.
“Carroll talks about different cultures but the underlying message is everyone plays,” Tregarthen said. “We all play and we all speak ball. The exhibit has locker balls that can be touched and some depict Kevin Carroll’s life.”
Forcing participants to “think outside the box,” Tregarthen said the exhibit encourages Oklahomans to get outside, play and act as a catalyst in life.
“We all can play,” Tregarthen said, calling Carroll an inspiration. “Carroll teaches through this exhibit how the use of play and work go together; that we should enjoy what we do.”
Carroll’s exhibit embraces his spirit of play and creativity to “maximize their human potential and sustain more meaningful business and potential growth,” Carroll said. One of Carroll’s goals is to inspire the next generation of dreamers, he said, and that is done partially through the Sam Noble Museum hosted exhibit.
“If I could sum up the purpose of this exhibit, I would say that Kevin Carroll’s universal message of play transcends gender, age and cultural boundaries,” Tregarthen said. “It’s a common human denominator and a way to live your personal and professional life.”
The exhibit is not just about art, play and red rubber balls. The exhibit is also about community. In coordination with the University of Oklahoma’s Office of Leadership and Volunteerism, Carroll kicks off a New Sports Ball Drive. The Drive ends Oct. 18 and all new playground balls collected through the drive will benefit local elementary schools, like Plaza Towers, and after-school programs. Carroll is also teaming up with the Oklahoma City Thunder and OU Athletics so each donated ball equals a chance for giveaways.
Other events being hosted as part of the exhibit include an OU Homecoming Four Square Tournament 5-7 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Sam Noble Museum. Another is “We All Speak Ball” Public Event Oct. 17 in the OU Oklahoma Memorial Union, 900 Asp Ave. One of the final events includes a public opening reception for The Art of Sport and Play 6-8 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Sam Noble Museum.
For more information visit snomnh.ou.edu.