Area Families Connect at Kennedy’s Art Encounters Workshop< < Back to
Rachel Bender, Megan Milano and Johnna Miska spend their time at work doodling on tables.
The three Ohio University students — Bender and Milano are working through the Program to Aid Career Exploration (PACE) and Miska through an independent study — work at the Kennedy Museum of Art, located at the Ridges.
In Lin Hall, tables lined with paper are home to creative doodles made by area children, with some works hung proudly on the walls (such a tree and dinosaur hybrid, dubbed the “Tree-Rex”).
With the help of their supervisors, the students host a free, monthly open studio program that aims to bring families closer together, as well as instigate interest and discussion of the museum’s current exhibitions.
Sally Delgado, curator of education at the Kennedy Museum of Art, said that the Family Art Encounters workshop has been available in some form since the museum’s opening in 1996, but has changed over the years.
Over time, the staff noticed that parents wanted to participate with their children, and that the age groups that used to separate them was less than ideal, according to Educational Programs Coordinator Lisa Quinn. Staff then conducted thorough research and sent out a survey to get a better idea of what participants wanted.
“I think it’s really important, especially for this community, that it’s free,” Miska said. “A lot of these art programs are really inaccessible because people can’t afford them.”
Miska added that, without payment or registration required, families come to the workshop purely because they want to be there.
Staff member Danette Pratt said each workshop’s goal is to figure out how to appeal to children as well as adults.
“The whole point is getting the community — especially the community — in, to look at the artwork, and create a dialogue between the parent and child about the artwork,” Pratt said.
The monthly workshops take place on a Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Lin Hall, located on the second floor of the Kennedy Museum of Art. Participants are welcome to come and go as they please within the two-hour window.
“The unique thing about our program is we’re focusing on the exhibitions that we have, so we’re directly connecting our studio activity to something that’s on display in the gallery,” Quinn said. “We’re playing to our expertise. We’re such a small organization, we can’t be all things to all people. We do what we do well.”
And they must be doing something right. Bender said that, at the beginning of the year, approximately 20 to 30 people showed up. In February, they had more than 100 participants in the two-hour time frame, largely thanks to regulars who bring friends and families. The final Family Art Encounters workshop of this academic year takes place this Sunday, April 10. Workshops will resume monthly beginning in September.
At last month’s Encounters workshop, participants were given a piece of artwork involving symbols, opening the doors for a wide variety of interpretations and complexity levels among the age groups.
After the workshop, children had their pictures taken with their new piece of art, grinning ear to ear and skipping out of Lin Hall with their parents.
“The facility is really conducive to creativity, and the staff was quite supportive. Having the students on hand to help inspire the kids really made it fun for her,” said Cary Frith, associate dean and chief financial and administrative officer, as she walked her six-year-old daughter Grace out of the hall.
Frith and her daughter have hiked at the Ridges before, but it was Grace’s first experience at the Kennedy Museum of Art, let alone her first Family Art Encounter.
Nikolaos Vouzianas, 10, said he enjoyed that this particular project combined art with mathematics, and plans to recommend the workshop to his friends.
“It’s a fun event. It’s a good time to be exposed to the things here, also to get something done,” his father, Athan, said. “We will definitely be here (for the next event).”
According to the Kennedy Museum of Art’s event webpage, this month’s theme is “Reduce, Reuse, and Re-set,” inspired by the sustainability themes of the current Kennedy exhibition, Witnessing the Anthropocene.