Playtime for grownups

Leonardo’s Basement provides adults with opportunities to broaden their skills

Jim Rick spent more than an hour on a Friday night earlier this month making sounds with a Sesame Street toy.

The 53-year-old Independence, Minn. man worked with CARAG resident Morgan L’Argente, 27, to make Cookie Monster say “yum, yum” in a deep, echoing, gargling way that would probably make a child cry. Rick smiled and took a sip of his wine.

“It’s fun to get that much out of it,” he said.

Rick and L’Argente were circuit-bending, or manipulating audio devices with wires, amplifiers and other tools to make unusual noises. Circuit-bending was one of several activities offered Feb. 2 at an adults-only party at Leonardo’s Basement in Kingfield.

Leonardo’s Basement, 4301 Nicollet Ave., is a nonprofit organization known for its afterschool and summertime art, science and technology programs for children. But this spring, it will give adults a chance to play through a program called Studio Bricolage. The organization has hosted several recent adults-only parties to showcase the new program’s offerings and raise money to purchase a space for future Bricolage events.

“Parents have always asked about doing the same things their kids are doing, and we said ‘yeah, someday,’” said Steve Jevning, founder and executive director of Leonardo’s Basement. “We’ve decided that the time is right to create a program for adults.”

Bricolage will offer a variety of classes, workshops and exhibitions, said Leonardo’s Basement employee Willis Bowman. The first classes are scheduled to begin in March and might teach welding, knitting, hot air balloon construction or other crafts, he said.

Monthly potluck workshops will allow adults to trade skills, and exhibitions will give them an opportunity to take part in some bizarre activities. One planned exhibition involves placing weights inside washers and dryers, putting them on wheels, turning them on and watching them dance around a parking lot.

Bowman said finding interested adults would not be a problem. “Every time I finished a class and parents came to pick their kids up, they would sheepishly look to me and say: ‘Can we get this, too?’”

About 50 inventors and tinkerers mingled about Leonardo’s Basement at the latest Bricolage party, where the theme was “Waves of Light and Sound.” Participants made candleholders out of tin cans, lamps out of miscellaneous objects, guitars out of boxes and sounds using children’s toys, among other creations.

Pounding, sawing, electronic screeches, conversation and laughter permeated the room.

Karen Haselmann, 42, of Seward, made a luminary from a tin can at the party. She attended the event after hearing about parents who were jealous of the fun their kids were having at Leonardo’s Basement.

“Adults rarely get a chance to work with their hands and play,” she said.

Later in the evening, Haselmann dripped yellow paint onto a spinning platform in a washing machine. It is perhaps the only washing machine with a label that reads, “mix one part paint to one part water.”

Kingfield resident Chris Stocksmith, 39, spent much of the evening making a lamp out of three rubber doll legs and half of a doll’s head.

“I’m thinking it would be kinda cool to have this sitting on my desk,” he said.

His wife, Jen Stocksmith, 33, was nearby making a guitar out of an animal crackers box, a wooden rod, string and some other hardware. She said the project reminded her of her younger years.

“When I was little, I used to make guitars out of Kleenex boxes and rubber bands,” she said.

Leonardo’s Basement employee Ed Vogel oversaw the guitar-making. At one point during the evening, he played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” using a guitar he’d made from a cereal box. Vogel said there’s nothing childish about making things from household items.

“I think it’s absolutely essential for people of all ages to make stuff,” he said. “It keeps your brain young.”

Jevning said Bricolage will not be a free program, but the cost of classes has not been set. The program is for anybody older than 18, he said. “Anyone who has a willingness to try something they’ve never done before.”

For more information on Studio Bricolage, call 824-4394 or check out


Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or [email protected].