Lisa Meyers McClintick, travel writer & photographer

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jelly Belly jelly bean art opens at Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Jelly Belly jelly bean artistry on exhibit at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

Princess Elizabeth at Jelly Belly in Wisconsin.
A challenge: Before you let the kids (or yourself) snarf through Easter Basket jelly beans, delay the sugar high with edible art work. Slap some sticky frosting onto a paper plate or graham cracker and see what funky work you can do.
Even better: Give them frosted cupcakes as a canvas and enter the Jelly Belly cupcake challenge for a chance to win $10,000. You have until July to submit winning entries.

Fortunately, there is amazing inspiration for jelly bean art at both the Jelly Belly Candy Company visitor center in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., and at a special Jelly Belly art exhibit that opened this month at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis.

A rainbow of jelly bean color
The timing of the new exhibit feels timely with Easter upon us, but Jelly Belly has commissioned serious works of jelly bean art since the 1980s. That's when the late Peter Rocha created the first bean portrait. Appropriately, it was of Ronald Reagan, Jelly Belly's most famous fan.

With 50 core flavors (and colors and/or patterns to distinguish them), a palette of jelly beans is better than a super-sized box of colored pencils. You'll get everything from deep blueberry (perfect for vivid Van Gogh landscapes) or flesh tones of peach or pina colada for portraits ("Girl in Jelly Belly Pearl Earring" anyone?)

Van Gogh's "Starry Night" gets beaned.
Jelly Belly works of art
Masterpieces of Jelly Bean Art opened April 9 at Indianapolis' children's museum and runs through June. After seeing it, you may never look at Easter candy the same way again (or you'll find yourself wondering what could be done with M&Ms and malted milk mini-eggs).

The Jelly Belly exhibit includes sweet twists on Van Gogh's Starry Night, Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, Grant Wood's American Gothic, and more.

Here's a brain teaser: Ask the kids to guess how many beans go into each portrait. (9,000 to 12,000 jelly beans). If they're really good, they'll decipher chocolate pudding eyes, coconut teeth, very cherry headscarves and green apple dresses. It's like a whole 'nother version of paint-by-number.


Girl with a Pearl Earring in Indianapolis.
Feeling inspired? Read about the museum's artist in residence and his thoughts on creating your own jelly bean portrait.

If you can't make it in time for the exhibit, it's still worth a road trip. It's arguably the best and most engaging children's museum in the country.

And if you're traveling from Minnesota, the Dakotas or Wisconsin to get there, guess what's on the way?

Yep, Jelly Belly. It's a virtual factory tour, a train ride and a chance to see jelly bean art year-round for free.  

Read more on this sugary family field trip.


Looking for other family-friendly educational trips? St. Paul's Science Museum glitters with gold and treasures from King Tut's tomb.

--Lisa Meyers McClintick

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