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A conceptual artist and author is luring kids into questioning the world and appreciating every smell, texture and mystery in it

At 42, Keri Smith still writes to a pen pal. She deeply appreciates secret passageways. And she sometimes rolls dice to determine which way she walks down the street. That won’t surprise her readers who have followed instructions from her bestselling books like Wreck This Journal — a tome that asks “users” to cover the pages in dirty fingerprints, smells and drawings made by strangers.

What they might not know is that Smith, a rosy-cheeked Canadian now ensconced in Northampton, Mass., is secretly trying to spark a political movement with her whimsy. “What I’m doing is trying to get kids to pay attention, to look at the physical world more, and to question everything,” she says, leaning across a bowl of yellow heirloom tomatoes on her kitchen table. “I am trying to get kids out of the house and away from screens. Someone is needed in this culture to speak up and say this behavior is dysfunctional.”


Keri Smith is on the Board of Advisors for the Center for Artistic Activism. Read more of her article on Time about her work and her newest book The Imaginary World of _________ HERE!