This week’s “Collaborations” pieces: Family Clay Sculptures

During the early winter months, our family joined several other neighborhood families on Saturday mornings for clay workshops at our local community center.   My daughter chose an ocean theme for our family.  We used our imaginations and looked through a book on sea life, sculpted various creations and then glazed them.  A local clay studio fired the pieces and returned them to the community center each week.  

We gave away most of our clay works as holiday gifts to relatives, but these sea horses (photographed by my daughter on my iPhone using Instagram) and a few others—like “Alien on a Surf Board,” “Erupting Volcano” and “Seal Balancing a Ball” (sadly, with a broken tail)—are proudly on display in our home. 

More Ways Cultural Institutions Are Using Tech and Social to Interact with Kids

Part two of a two-part series

The second half of my series on how New York’s cultural institutions are using technology to help kids interact, collaborate and use social media with their families to enhance their experiences with the institutions features Art Babble and The Brooklyn Museum of Art.


ArtBabble is a video site dedicated to art and artists and features high-definition video content from more than 30 partners around the world—Corning Museum of Glass, MoMA, Museum of Art and Design and The New York Public Library among them.  It was conceived, initiated, designed, built, sculpted, programmed, shot, edited, painted and launched by a cross-departmental collection of individuals at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA).

The “Channels” section allows visitors to sort through “A to Z” video topics, such as “Animation,” “Origami” and “Robots.”  You can also sort by the artists’ names or by the names of the institution partners.   However, there is not a way to sort content appropriate for elementary and middle-school-aged children.

Emily Lytle-Painter, a lab coordinator at IMA offers these video suggestions for younger audiences:

Empire of the Eye: The Magic of Illusion: Introduction, Part 1

“The Magic of Illusion”—presented in a seven-part podcast series—is a film about how we see, what we see or what it is we think we see.  Al Roker guides viewers on a journey into the secrets of illusion, utilizing special effects to illustrate the artistic and visionary discoveries of the Renaissance. While Copernicus and Columbus were changing our understanding of the world, the Renaissance masters were dramatically changing the way we see that world.

Robots – Nemo Gould

Kinetic sculptor Nemo Gould took SJMA on a fascinating tour of his studio/workspace. He talked about his robot creations and talks about the robot that he specifically built for the exhibition “Robots: Evolution of a Cultural Icon.”

Lino Tagliapietra—Voices of Contemporary Glass

Lino Tagliapietra grew up on the island of Murano, the center for glassmaking in Venice.  Today, he is recognized as an accomplished artist, and he is widely regarded as the best glassblower in the world.   The video features an interview with Tagliapietra as he demonstrates Venetian glassblowing techniques.

Other noteworthy videos for this audience include:

Robert Lang Teaches Origami: Duck

Installation of Gabriel Orozco’s Mobile Matrix at MoMA

For Parents: How to Engage Your Children in Art

Laurie Simmons: Choreographer Helen Pickett

Moving East Gate/West Gate by Helicopter


Brooklyn Museum

First off, I must say the website for the Brooklyn Museum is really well organized and easy to navigate.  The “Exhibitions” section features not only current, upcoming and past museum exhibitions, but also includes three tabs that you can access for more information.  Most exhibits feature four tabs:

“Media,” which includes YouTube videos, including the show’s installation, as well as Tumblr and Flickr slideshows relative to each exhibit, for most shows;

“Talk,” which features blog posts and visitor comments;

“Print,” which includes the exhibit catalog, if there is one, and a “Teachers Packet;”and

“Events,” which include opening parties and gallery talks.

The Education: Youth and Family Programs section features online activities to explore, including Ancient EgyptBrooklyn Expedition and, my favorite, theJean-Michel Basquiat Street to Studio.  The Basquiat activity introduces kids to the famous street artist and allows them to “Exlpore the Paintings,” “Create an Artwork” in Basquiat’s signature style and “Send an E-card” featuring one of his paintings along with a personalized message.  The section also includes family guides to current exhibits and listings of gallery talks and events for children.

Additionally, the museum has an app for the iPhone and Droid (Brooklyn Museum Mobile) that acts as a guide to the museum, provides easy access to its online catalog and functions like a social networking site by allowing users to recommend their favorite art to other visitors.

This week’s "Collaborations" pieces: Mix-ups by Tom, Louis & Jack Shannon

Mix-ups: Parent-child Art Collaboration
Mix-ups by Tom, Louis & Jack Shannon
When his sons Louis and Jack were young, renowned artist Tom Shannon used to draw “mix-ups” with them, the game where participants fold a sheet of paper in thirds, take turns drawing and concealing the head, body or feet of a person (or creature) and passing it on to the next person.  The Surrealists called this art form “Exquisite Corpse.”  

One year, the Shannons bound all of their creations into a book and gave it to the boys’ mother.  These are two of my favorite drawings from the book.  Mix-ups are a fun way to enjoy art with kids.  And you never know what you’ll create. 

CMA is Expanding to a New, Bigger Location

Photo Courtesy of CMA

The Children’s Museum of the Arts (CMA) in Soho announced this week that it will be opening a new 10,000-square-foot museum site at 103 Charlton Street (at the corner of Hudson Street) in October 2011.

CMA says the new space will allow the museum to expand its art education programs for young artists, ages 1 to 15, offering more of everything: “more  inspired messiness, more opportunities to make art with CMA’s super-talented Teaching Artists, more programs for tweens and teens, new programming for 10-to 15-year olds, a new media lab, bigger and better exhibits, and more free programs.”

According to its website, CMA will serve 70,000 visitors in its first year open—and 25 percent of free of charge thus expanding its outreach to ensure that communities in need throughout NYC have access to the museum’s innovative approach to the arts.

The new space will also feature:

— a 2,000-square-foot exhibition space;

— a state-of-the-art media lab and sound booth offering CMA’s award-winning, stop-action animation program, through which children ages 6 to 15 can develop, create and edit their own animated films;

— a Clay Bar, which houses a clay workshop and  will be equipped with materials for creature- and puppet-building;

–dedicated tween and teen events;

–two classrooms, two art studios and a special “Wee Arts” studio for toddler programs;

— plus a café.

To learn more about CMA’s expansion plans and capital campaign click here.

How Cultural Institutions Are Using Tech and Social to Interact with Kids

CultureChild 2.0

Part one of a two-part series.

New York’s cultural institutions are employing an array of new technologies that help kids interact, collaborate and use social media with their families to enhance their experiences with the institutions.  Part one of this two-part series explores activities for children through The New York Public Libraries’ Summer Reading Program, The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

New York Public Library Summer Reading Program for Children

Each year, the New York, Brooklyn and Queens Public Libraries join forces and sponsor a Summer Reading Program for kids.  My daughter looks forward to it every summer.  To get started, children log onto the website and set up an account.  Kids create profiles with a new screen name generator (which sets up a screen name to fit them perfectly without revealing personal data) and design avatars using clothes, hairstyles, facial and features and more.  After logging in, kids can record the amount of time they have spent reading.  A running total for the summer appears on each child’s profile page.  Kids earn special badges by keeping logs and reviewing their favorite books, music, movies and games.  They can also “like” others’ reviews and click on others’ avatars to see other items that those users have logged.

Summer Reading culminates in late August.  Volunteers organize parties at various branches throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, and children come in to receive certificates and prizes. The Summer Reading 2011 kick-off is June 9, 2011.

American Museum of Natural History Explorer App and Website

The American Museum of Natural History Explorer (AMNH Explorer) Phone/iPod touch app is awesome.  Through the museum’s wi-fi network, Explorer can identify your location and offer GPS directions, so getting around the museum is a breeze. In addition, it serves as a guide to more than 100 exhibitions with explanatory text and images of important objects, and provides directions to cafes, gift shops and bathrooms.  You can also share an interesting exhibit or artifact via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.  You can download the app free at iTunes or borrow a preloaded device at the museum.

My husband and I took our daughter to the museum last Saturday.  We used our long subway ride to plan our visit. Once inside, I simply touched my exhibit of choice on my screen and received step-by-step, on-screen directions with a map.  It couldn’t have been easier.  I have to admit, though, it took getting used to carrying my (silenced) phone around a museum.  Once I got to each exhibit, I preferred to read the wall tags, watch the films and interact with the exhibit versus trying to read about the various sections on my phone.  However, the GPS map was brilliant, especially for finding the bathroom quickly with children.  It was also easy to reconnect with my husband via a quick text and digital map after we got separated.

My daughter loved touring the giant brain as part of Brain: The Inside Story. Thanks to AMNH’s fantastic children’s section of the website, she can play the interactive games from the exhibit anytime.

AMNH also offers two new dinosaur iPad apps.

MoMA Kids Interactive Website and Audio Tours and Mobile Apps

The Museum of Modern Art’s free Droid  and iPhone/iTouch apps offer calendars, tours of all MoMA audio programs, general information and an index of all the museum’s works and artists featured in its collection.  The apps’ Snaps feature lets visitors to use their camera phones to snap photos and send them as a museum postcards to family and friends.

No smartphone?  No problem.  MoMA also offers free audio tours (sponsored by Bloomberg) throughout the museum.  The audio tours for kids are interactive and engaging, providing a wealth of information about MoMA’s collections and the building.  During a visit with friends, we gave the children the audio guides.  While my seven-year-old liked the independence of being in charge of her guide and was interested in facts it espoused, my friend’s younger children (ages four and five) had more fun punching the buttons.  This turned out well for all of us, as the younger children were entertained with their new gadgets, and the rest of us could view the pieces in each gallery in which we were most interested and at our own pace.  The audio guides are free, but you need to leave an ID to get one.

Post-visit, children can participate in an online Intergalactic Journey to MoMA and P.S.1 with an alien creature to recall paintings, sculptures and installations that they visited at MoMA and complete art projects; or they can plan their visit to MoMA’s sister museum. PS1.  The online program is designed for children five through eight and requires Flash.

MoMA’s Kids and Family program offers a robust array of activities, including family gallery talks, workshops, films artist talks and other resources for children.

Putting Learning into the Right Context for Children

How do you make learning about art, different cultures and even math relevant and engaging for kids?

Recently, one of my readers left a comment about a visit with her stepdaughter to the Rubin Museum of Art, which is dedicated to art of the Himalayas and surrounding regions.  It turned out to be a great experience for them both, because her stepdaughter had recently studied India in school and took pride in sharing what she had learned with her parents during the museum visit.

Another parent and photographer Darryl Nitke recently told me that he considers himself very educated, especially in the realm of art.  He said, however, that the one place where his middle and high school education had fallen short was teaching art, literature, science, music and philosophy independently and not putting context between them.  He does things differently with his son, who has been accompanying him to museums and galleries since he could walk.  He always tries to tie in visits with his child’s interests, current school topics or by putting the art they view into a historical context.  For example, due to the current tragedy in Japan, he is taking his son to the Met to see The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.

Darryl explained how this process of exploring art with his son came together during their trip to Rome last summer: “We took a bunch of photos at the major sites and of specific works in the museums. When my son started fifth grade this year, his history book had at least 10 photos of the same sites and museum pieces that we had seen—taken from exactly the same place! That really thrilled my son!”

I also recently met parent and sculptor Skye Ferrante while waiting in line with our kids for the MoMA’s Material Lab.  We struck up a conversation about why we teach our kids about art.  He subscribes to Ray Bradbury’s philosophy that “life is a search of metaphors for life” and believes art is a great metaphor for teaching his daughter about the world.

“I learned more about French History from Victor Hugo than I did from a text book,” he said.  “But I’m biased: I’m an artist.”

Nonetheless, I’m seeing the idea of “context” being carried over into subjects other than social studies and art.  My first-grader recently proclaimed that she “hates” math but couldn’t really explain why.  Hoping to glean some insight, my husband and I both attended “Math Day” at her school.  We learned that the school’s math program is based on a problem-solving approach rooted in everyday situations.  “By making connections between their own knowledge and experiences, children learn basic skills in meaningful contexts, so that mathematics becomes ‘real,’” said the principal.  Again, it’s all about the context.

After being stumped by a fourth-grade math problem, we wondered how long we could continue helping her with her homework, let alone encourage her to like math.  We learned math in more of a rote fashion.  And, I’ll be honest, I never liked math either.

A visit to her classroom was more promising.  We saw the concepts that the principal spoke about in action.  The children were writing numbers, reading word problems, building towers with blocks that represented different numbers and calculating the tall totals, solving math puzzles on the class Smart Board and using a giant number line that stretched half of the room, while collaborating with each other through addition and subtraction to reveal a mystery number.  And my daughter seemed very into it.  Was she just having a bad day when she made that proclamation?

I’ve since tried to casually incorporate more math into everyday activities, such as cooking, playing games like Mancala and Monopoly or figuring out the 25 percent savings off a doll that she wanted.  The head of the school’s Computer Lab suggests students can stay on top of their math skills during spring and summer breaks by playing games on age-appropriate educational websites.  He recommends:;;


I also read good reviews of the following iPad/iTouch apps and will be giving them a try with my daughter: Math BingoMath Board and Tic Tac Math.

This week’s "Collaborations" pieces were created by Mark Cole and his sons

CultureChild: Parent-child Art Collaborations

In these collaborations, each of Mark’s sons painted a picture then he worked on top of their paintings with ink.

Here is what he said about his process: 
“When I work on collaborative drawings with the children, I first let them make a watercolor painting on paper and I later react to it by drawing on top of it with ink. Sometimes this means finding a way to enhance their part of the work and sometimes it just means staying out of the way of the wonderful thing they have already created.  It always means doing something that fits with the spirit of what they have started with.  It is very tempting to tell them what I want when they are working but it is always better to let them do whatever they feel like which in turn opens new doors for the finished drawing by making it fresh and unexpected. ”

This week’s "Collaborations" piece was created by Armand Rusillon and his daughter

CultureChild: Parent-child art collaboration entitled, “Kitchen Door.”

Passing time on a white, wintry morning.

Introducing "Collaborations"

CultureChild: “The Red Studio” by Henri Matisse

It dawned on me during my research for this blog that among the benefits of connecting children to painting, sculpture, dance, music, photography, storytelling, design, theater and art at large, the most wonderful benefit of all is the deepening of our connection to our children through art that we experience together.

Every time I see my daughter joyfully creating “masterpieces” on her plastic foldaway picnic table, her “Red Studio,” as we’ve dubbed it, I am pleasantly reminded of the morning we spent with other families at MoMA, sprawled underneath Henri Matisse’s celebrated painting “The Red Studio,” drawing fanciful depictions of our favorite places.

With this fond memory in mind, I am happy to introduce “Collaborations,” an ongoing series in my blog showcasing beautiful collaborations between artists (or art lovers) and their children.

Interview with Megan Lucas, Freelance Museum Educator

CultureChild: Teaching Children About Art

Sunday, I chatted with Megan Lucas, a freelance educator for the Family Programs at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), during a visit with my daughter to the museum’s Material Lab.  Here are a few excerpts from our conversation.

CultureChild:  Why is it important to teach children about art?

Megan:  Teaching children about art helps them realize things about themselves, their surroundings and others. I find that children develop their own lenses by observing how artists use theirs. By observing the artwork of others, children can reflect on themselves and their surroundings. Through our Family Programs, family members can come to these realizations collectively.

In MoMA’s Family Art Workshop for Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914, we help children understand Picasso’s lens by asking them to think about an everyday object that has personal significance and what the object represents to them.   To Picasso, the guitars in his work symbolize Spain and his love of music.

CultureChild: Do you know of any research that connects children learning about art to their personal development?

Megan:  The Guggenheim Museum’s Learning Through Art program (LTA) conducted and published research linking art education to the development of literacy and critical thinking skills.  The Guggenheim Museum recently published another study about how observation and art-making enhance problem-solving skills.

CultureChild: In addition to the MoMA’s Family Art Workshops, how can parents help children engage with art?


Parents and children can visit museum galleries without taking tours. When parents ask open-ended questions and encourage reflection and close analysis of art works, family members of all ages can hone their critical thinking skills while thinking and looking at art, side by side as a family.

In addition, all of the objects in the Material Lab are designed to teach children about the works in the museum’s collection, to encourage them to interact with art and to inspire creativity.

About Megan: Megan Lucas currently works as a freelance museum educator teaching school programs at the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, as well as family programs at MoMA.  She recently received her Master in Education in art education with a focus in museum education from Teachers College at Columbia University. Megan also holds a Master of Arts in art education from Teachers College, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in fine arts from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.  In addition to teaching, she also enjoys drawing, painting and printmaking.