NORMAN — Red rubber, banana fiber, trash or rubber band — no matter the material, balls can be found around the world. And for that matter, so can “play.”
It’s the central idea behind the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History’s newest exhibit, “The Art of Sport + Play,” which opened with a reception Friday night. Exhibit creator Kevin Carroll, author of “Rules of the Red Rubber Ball,” said the touring exhibition centers around the idea that “play” is a universal language that connects all people.
“I want people to be reminded of how important [play] is but also we can do a lot with very little,” Carroll said. “We’re resourceful and resilient. We don’t need big budgets. We need our imagination and our creativity. And play is at the root of all of that.”
Carroll’s exhibit includes selected pieces of memorabilia he’s gathered while traveling the world, including handcrafted balls made from synthetic and organic materials in places like Jamaica, Brazil, Kenya and even Norman.
The exhibit explores the idea of the power of sport to inspire creativity and innovation through interactive play, various literature and sports objects.
The opening reception of the exhibit featured family-friendly activities like creating balls from sponges as well as special guest appearances from Carroll, Oklahoma City Thunder TV analyst Grant Long, University of Oklahoma wrestling coach Mark Cody, and OU rowing coach Leeanne Crain.
Becky Barker, director of OU Leadership and Volunteerism, said the exhibit was a reminder to her that fun makes work easier and can inspire a community to work together.
Barker’s son, Whittier Middle School 8th grader Reed Barker, heard Carroll speak at his school on Tuesday. Reed plays football at his school and said Carroll helped him realize that sports can teach him skills that will aid him throughout his entire life.
The reception also marked the end of Caroll’s New Sports Ball Drive, a donation effort by OU Leadership and Volunteerism division of Student Affairs. Caroll delivered donated balls to Briarwood and Plaza Towers elementaries in Moore earlier in the week. Additional donations were given to Longfellow and Irving middle schools in Norman, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County and other local and after-school programs.
Carroll auctioned off a variety of autographed balls during the reception to those who donated to the drive during the reception.
Today Carroll is leading “The Art of Telling Your Story: A Storytelling Workshop for Adults” 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the museum.
The museum is also celebrating the exhibit with “Family Game Night at the Museum” from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Nov. 1. Guests will start in the museum’s galleries with fun games, followed by a kid-friendly dinner and the opportunity for each family to design and make a game to take home and play outside. Cost is $20 for members and $30 for non-members. The price includes one adult and one child. Each additional person is $10 for members and $15 for non-members. Dinner is included for all participants. Call 405-325-0598 to register.
The exhibit is on display through Jan. 26 at the Sam Noble Museum, 2401 Chautauqua Ave. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors 65 and up, and $3 for youth ages 6 to 17. Children ages 5 and under are admitted free. Discounts are available for military personnel and their immediate families. For more information visit snomnh.ou.edu.
Carroll’s appearances are sponsored by the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and the following OU departments and offices: Leadership and Volunteerism, Division of Student Affairs, Sooner Parents, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, Information Technology, Enrollment and Student Financial Services, the Alumni Association, Web Communications, and through a community partnership with the OKC Thunder.