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Taking the Kids: Exploring the most kid friendly art museums

Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

If you could jump into a painting and walk around in it, what painting would you choose? Where would you go in the painting? The sun-splashed Riviera or foggy London? A forest filled with animals? A field of sunflowers or a haunting desert landscape?

Good museum conversation starters for adults as well as kids. Also a good way to engage kids when visiting an art museum, suggests Lindsay Genshaft, the senior manager of family and community programs at the Denver Art Museum, one of the most kid-friendly I’ve visited.

Maybe it’s a rainy day on vacation, maybe you’re home and the kids are whining that they are bored, maybe everyone has had too much sun. Maybe you have a child who is the best artist in his class, or the worst.

Whether you are art lovers or not, there is no better time to take the kids to an art museum as many are more kid-friendly than ever. That might turn a young art-hater into an aficionado.

You just have to plan your visit. Look online for special family tours and activities. Encourage the kids to peruse the museum website to see what exhibits might interest them … paintings, sculpture, Medieval armor, jewelry.

The august Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has #metkids with online and social media content developed by kids for kids. The Smithsonian, which includes the Getty Museum in LA, has a special free multimedia Getty Guide family tour and Art Detective Cards for kids to solve a mystery while exploring the museum. The Art Institute Chicago invites visitors to create their own museum journey with works from the museum’s extensive collections. Ready to fly through galleries like a superhero?

 

Of course you will find special family activities and programs at smaller art museums as well. Check out the Eric Carle Museum in Massachusetts with the original artwork your kids will recognize from his many books. Kids are invited to create their own art in the Everyday Art Project. The Heard Museum in Phoenix, which celebrates Native American culture and art, has a variety of hands-on activities and festivals, encouraging kids to build understanding.

(A tip: If you can’t find a section on the museum website for families, search for what is offered for educators and students. Many of the activities and suggestions for school groups can be easily adapted for families.

At the Denver Art Museum, now reopened after a $175 million renovation, families are front and center in everything the museum does. Not only are kids and teens (up to 18) free but just about every gallery has a hands-on children’s activity and special exhibits have a kids’ audio guide, crafted with the help of the museum’s Youth Advisory Group. I really enjoyed seeing the special Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature” at the Denver Art Museum, for example, told from the viewpoint of a little water lily.

With the help of her team and the Youth Advisory Group, Genshaft is working on the audio story for the fall special exhibit. “Saints, Sinners, Lovers and Fools,” which showcases 300 years of Flemish masterpieces.

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