The Philadelphia Museum of Art has long had a tradition of inviting families and children to interact with the art, but the amount of actual programming is staggering. We chatted with Emily Schreiner, the Berton and Sallie Korman Associate Curator of Education for Family and Community Learning, who helps to oversee all of the Museum offerings for families, children and community groups. (She’s also a mama of two young ones, who fell in love with the Museum during a summer internship.)
Q: Sundays are the big day for families at the Museum?
A: We offer family programs every Sunday, including the first Sunday each month, which is “pay-what-you-wish” admission. There are tours, performances, art making, and lots of things for everyone to engage in. We set up a studio on the second floor balcony in the Great Stair Hall. We focus on creating experiences about families, not just cute things that kids can do, but things that young people and their grown-ups can do together. On the other Sundays, there are family tours at 11 a.m. for 3-5 years olds and 6-10 year olds. They are participatory and fun, and get families in galleries talking about art. There is also the Family Art Cart staffed by educators. There are stories, games and art making … it’s a way of getting deeply engaged in portions of the Museum collection.
Q: How much does it cost?
A: All of this is free after admission. But I should note that kids under 12 are always free. And the first Sunday of each month is “pay-what-you-wish” admission.
Q: Is programming always different?
A: Each month we have a different theme. March is “Marvelous Materials”, April is “Epic Journeys”. Families who come on a regular basis will gradually get to know the entire collection and, we hope, become lifetime visitors.
Q: Can kids and parents participate?
A: Both! A lot of parents are intimidated to bring their children into the Museum galleries. They aren’t sure how their kids will act, or they will ask questions that the parents don’t know the answers to. One of our goals is to demonstrate easy things parents can do with their children in the galleries independent of us. When parents take their kids out to dinner, they have a bag of tricks, and they know how to entertain their kids. You need the same in a Museum in order to help your kids succeed in the environment. We show parents how to do that.
Q: Does it get crowded?
A: In the dead of the winter, it is busy. It picks up again in the summer with Art Splash, our programming that runs every single day in the summer. For that, we have art making and in-gallery experiences every day.
Q: You guys are busy!
A: This is all really the basis of our programming and everything adds on from there. We do special programs for community groups, art classes for children, stroller tours on the second Wednesday of the month, and Baby Bird playdates, a drop-in art playdate for toddlers and grown-ups every Friday at 10:15 a.m.
Q: And then there is the Every Family Party in May …
A: My team and I work on all the art activities and in-gallery activities for our Every Family Party. Our goal is to transform the Museum into a wonderland for families, and really have things come to life. We will be doing fun, engaging art activities on the balcony and in the galleries. This year the focus is on Ink and Gold: Art of the Kano, a major exhibition dedicated to the art of Japan. One of the highlights is the kimono demonstrations, where kids will get to try on real kimonos. Everything is inspired by the art, as we are always about making connections between artwork and our lives.