There’s no need to overthink things. Louisa Donelson, a Portland Museum of Art educator, knows the best way to engage kids in art is to let them make it.
“We’re just looking for ways to provide new opportunities for all different types of people to engage in the museum. What comes naturally to younger kids is when we can provide hands-on interactive activities inspired by artists in the space,” she said. “Getting kids to interact with real artists alongside parents or caregivers is a natural fit for younger audiences.”
With school vacation week at hand, the museum has scheduled three family days next week, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, Dec. 30.
Artists from Maine College of Art’s master’s teaching program will lead art projects inspired by the exhibition “The Art Books of Henri Matisse,” on view at the museum. Participants will make seasonal or holiday greeting cards inspired by the shapes and colors of Matisse’s artworks, Donelson said.
These are workshops for families, not just kids. They are targeted at ages 4 to 14, with the idea than an adult will accompany the kids and participate. “My focus is on the work with the kids, but I see magic with the adults who are working alongside the kids,” Donelson said. “It’s a chance for them to play and be creative and learn from their children. It’s an opportunity for them to experiment and take chances. In our day-to-day lives, there’s often too much at stake to take chances. But a simple fun art activity allows us to explore ourselves on deeper levels.”
The family day also includes a docent-led gallery tour and self-guided scavenger hunts. Family fun days are free for kids 14 and younger.
Concurrent with the family days is the museum’s Animation Show of Shows film festival, with a dozen family-oriented films playing over several days at the museum. The screenings begin at 2 p.m. Friday and continue through Dec. 30. See portlandmuseum.org/events/movies for details. The films are free to kids 16 and younger.
School vacation week also is a good time to check out The Workshop, a new interactive space near the cafe and auditorium. The Workshop also encourages hands-on activities that are tied to an exhibition on view. The current project is “Illustrator’s Dilemma,” which is tied to three book-inspired exhibitions currently on view, “Of Whales in Paint: Rockwell Kent’s Moby-Dick,” “Unbound: Tim Rollins and K.O.S.” and “The Art Books of Henri Matisse.”
There’s a collaborative illustration under way now in The Workshop, related to “Moby-Dick.” Visitors are asked to read a page from the 800-word book and respond to it in illustration.