As a museum educator and art enthusiast, I am constantly looking for ways in which families can engage with art collections, art making, and art programs that can build and expand over the course of a lifetime. With the speed of technology and innovation driving our children’s interest towards screen-based engagement, parents and teachers crave ideas that explore creative play, team-work, and leadership. Here are a few suggestions families can use to spark that initial interest in art.
1. Family Art Making Workshops Many museums and cultural institutions offer monthly and weekly programs at free or low cost in which families can learn a project and make art together. Often times they are focused around a theme, or a type of art medium like clay, or painting. If you’re having trouble with your child asking for help on a tricky math problem, or vocabulary word, making art together, as a team, can be an excellent entry way into bridging that gap.
- Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Family Arts Academy: www.pafa.org/faa
- The Clay Studio: Family Classes: https://public.theclaystudio.org/public/FamilyChildren.faces
- Main Line Art Center: Family Drop-Ins: https://public.mainlineart.org/public/YouthFamily.faces
2. Talk About Art No matter what mode of transportation you find yourself in these day, you cannot go far without seeing the influence of art and design. Uniquely designed store signs, murals, public sculpture, and interesting architecture – there is something to see and engage with around every corner. A quick series of open-ended questions can get a family talking and looking for a good period of time and perhaps even spur a debate. Some helpful conversation starters:
- What’s going on with that sculpture?
- Does that billboard work for you? Why?
- If you could change that mural, how would you change it?
- What do you think the artist was trying to say?
3. Get Messy One of my favorite, inexpensive and fun ways to make art at home with your family is by introducing them to materials that you normally don’t associate with art. From shaving cream to milk, tapping into STEAM based learning with household materials is always an experiment worth trying. Parents are very quick to make cookies or pizza with their children, but are not sure where to start when it comes to art materials. Here are a few blog posts to explore from the Artful Parent:
- The Artful Parent, Homemade Art materials: https://artfulparent.com/2015/07/40-homemade-art-materials-for-kids.html
- The Artful Parent, Shaving Cream Marbling: https://artfulparent.com/2014/06/shaving-cream-marbling-with-liquid-watercolors.html
4. Let the kids be your guide The next time your child takes a field trip that you cannot attend, fear not! Schedule a time later that weekend for your family to go back. Ask your child to take you to some of the places they most remembered, liked, even disliked. Tell the teacher your plan and ask he/she/they if there were places they did not have time to see. This is a great way to empower your child to take the lead on a family excursions and let’s them be the expert for the day.
Engagement in art can be as simple as having a child design a menu for a dinner party for quests, or making posters to support a cause or subject you and your family believe in. Skills in artmaking develop with time and practice and those who are excellent drawers may not be able to construct a 3 dimensional object and vice versa. Building visual literacy is an important skill and you can start at any age.
Pennsylviania Academy of the Fine Arts’ museum is internationally known for its collections of 19th- and 20th-century American paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. Its archives house important materials for the study of American art history, museums, and art training. PAFA will inspire the future of American art by creating, challenging, cultivating, and celebrating excellence in the fine arts. For more information, please visit https://www.pafa.org/