CMA Stories

“Knowing yourself without rules and boundaries is like a North Star to guide you through the rest of your life” — 5 Minutes With Teaching Artist Josh Goldberg

CMA’s staff of Teaching Artists are all talented artists in their own right — and Senior Media Lab Teaching Artist Josh Goldberg is no exception! Josh (and his dad!) recently created their own math-inspired board game, Crooks and Cash, which is available for sale at CMA’s Front Desk. Get to know Josh below!

Tell us about your artistic practice and how working with children inspires you.

My personal practice is varied, but focuses heavily on characters, larger-than-life personalities, and storytelling. I have dipped my toes in animation, illustration, painting, music videos, graphics, and merchandise design. Across all mediums and disciplines, I love establishing weird and transporting worlds, then creating rules and order within those worlds. Working with children is inspiring because of their ability to notice things that adults do not and their easy come, easy go attitude. Children just go with an artistic process and when it’s done, so are they. They move on without being precious with it.

Your game is so amazing! How did it come about?

My dad always created board games on the side. He was originally trying to be a mathematician and his obsession with brain teasers has always been present. When I was a kid, he made this game called Heximania that was picked up by a company called Educational Insights and sold at big stores like Target. Crooks and Cash was another loose concept that he had, although with a different title at the time. The game was meant to teach kids about permutations and combinations in math through increasingly difficult puzzle challenges. The way it ended up materializing is a two-pronged story.

I’m eternally bad at math, but in middle school, I had to enter the math fair as a requirement of my class. I took his concept, which was called Bees and Flowers at the time, and changed it to Crooks and Cash. It is named after the opposing icons on each piece that need to be paired on each side to solve the puzzle, which is where the difficulty comes in. It ended up winning the math fair!

After college, I worked in a toy store called Kidding Around in Flatiron. I noticed none of the children’s educational games covered this peripheral math concept. I pitched it to the owners of the store, and they told me if I designed it and manufactured it, they would carry it.

My dad and I got an LLC and went into this mini business venture together, getting it manufactured overseas, and exhibiting it at the American International Toy Fair at the Javits Center. Crooks and Cash now sells at a dozen or so boutique toy stores around the city.

Do you have a favorite memory of making art as a child?

My favorite memories making art as a child always had to do with collaborating with friends to write and illustrate stories. I would team up with my friends Brenner and Stephen and we would write absurdist stories and comics. I also remember sitting and drawing for hours and hours! It was the only thing I could focus on for a long period of time.

What do you enjoy most about working at CMA?

I love the community of artists and constantly learning new things from everyone I work with! Everyone has a unique personal practice, and it makes for an awesome cross-pollination of ideas and concepts.

Why is it important to make art accessible to all children and families?

Art is one of the only things in life without rules and restrictions — it is an escape and a way to explore ourselves simultaneously. Knowing yourself without rules and boundaries is like a North Star to guide you through the rest of your life. It is important for kids to have a place that is all their own, where they can store all sorts of energies — somewhere to go when they feel frustrated, trapped, inspired, or excited.

View more of Josh’s art at

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