Time for another addition to my exploring the city posts! Today I am going to be talking about the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM). There is a lot to do at the art museum for people of all ages, but since I went with Dominic, I will primarily be focusing on the experience of taking kids (especially little kids) to the art museum.
If you would have asked me before if the art museum would be a kid friendly place, I would have probably said no. I had a very clear picture of art museums in my head of being stuffy, boring places with a lot of stuff that you can’t touch. I first visited the Milwaukee Art Museum for a MAM After Dark event and that was the first time I realized that they could be interesting, even if you are not an art scholar or enthusiast. And so this summer, when I found out the library offers free summer family passes to the art museum, I jumped on the opportunity to try something different with Dominic (special thanks to my friend Diana, who tipped me off to these passes!) And now, since visiting, I can say yes, the art museum is absolutely a place that you can and should take your kids and that they can have a great experience there! So let me tell you all about my visit to the MAM with my father-in-law and Dominic and all the ways the museum is kid friendly.
First of all, I will start with the fact that the museum has some areas that are specifically created with kids in mind, through the Kohl’s Art Generation Program. This program does a lot of things and some of them are only available during certain times, but if you are going just any time, you can always count on the Kohl’s Art Generation Lab and the Kohl’s Art Generation Gallery being open all the time during museum hours.
Let’s start with the Kohl’s Art Generation Lab. Right now the exhibit there is Museum Inside Out. It’s all about learning how museums work. It’s a heavily media focused exhibit, with a lot of different videos. It also contains touch screens where you can pick your favorite of two works of art to vote on them and it aggregates data about which ones get voted for the most.
It also contains this long table, where you can build your own museum/exhibits. There are blocks you can make walls out of, pieces of art you can arrange, and people you can place all over the museum.
Also in this exhibit there was a painting on the wall and down below it, there was a touch screen computer you could interact with. It showed how they analyzed paintings with different lights and tools (like x-ray) to learn more about the painting. You could move the boxes over the different parts of the virtual depiction of the painting and see what it looked like as it was x-rayed for example. You could also watch short videos about the techniques or read about them. Dominic thought it was pretty cool (no surprise there, he loves electronics).
The space for the Kohl’s Art Generation Gallery is a bit bigger. The exhibit that is there currently is Illusions: Near and Far.
When you first walk in there are tables set up where you can use different aids to help you draw. On Dominic’s table, it’s a scene of eggs in a next in a gridded box with gridded paper so that you can draw the different grids as they correspond to help you map the drawing. On the other table were special devices you could use that reflected an image of a bowl of fruit onto the paper to aid you in tracing it (I don’t know if I’m explaining that right, but they were cool, these different ways that they can help you draw things).
As you go back farther into the exhibit, there is even more to do.
There are two videos you can sit and watch, one of which is this Grover sketch with him being near and far at different times.
There is a box with blocks that you can stack and then turn on (or off) the various light switches to see how different lighting effects how the blocks appear.
This was one of my favorite parts, even though I just watched Dominic play with it – gigantic felt boards! They covered pretty much an entire room to themselves. Part of this room was big frames, so after you created something, you could take a picture of it as a masterpiece.
They also have a panel where you could put these window clings and build a scene with the mountains and a house and a fence and so on.
There was much more to that area too that I didn’t even have a chance to take a picture of.
Those parts were easy to handle Dominic in – he could touch and interact with so much of it. It was the rest of the museum I was worried about. I was worried he would find it really boring or that he would touch things that he wasn’t supposed to, but for the most part he did really great! The art held his attention better than I expected. It helped in part when we talked about it – asking questions about it, “Do you see the bird? What color is the bird?” stuff like that, to help make it a bit more interactive than just looking at it. Dominic would start to describe the art and ask me questions about it too towards the end.
I also have to mention one of the other great things they have in the museum, the ArtPacks. They are different activities for kids you can check out for free, they just ask that you leave one of the adult’s IDs there as a guarantee you will return it. They have a couple of different things, including a costume you can check out and wear around the museum. For Dominic we checked out a sketchpack, which came with a variety of paper, a set of colored pencils, a sharpener and erasers. We also checked out a great book – A is for Art! It had pictures of all different things that are actually in the MAM, one for each letter. Dominic really loved this – we didn’t purposefully set out to find them, but I flipped through it with him and when I would notice one I thought was familiar looking, I would check the book and show Dominic the picture and we would look at the art. It seemed like he thought it was cool to see something in the book and then see it in real life. A is for Art is also available through their app which you can download or you can get an iPod touch preloaded with it from the art museum to check out. I really didn’t play with it too much this time, but I will in the future I think.
J is for Janitor was one of the items in the book! This was before we had picked up the book, but it was still very interesting to look at.
This sculpture was a giant shovel. For some reason, Dominic was fascinated by it and wanted to come back to look at it more than once.
I don’t know what to call this one lol. But Dominic was very intrigued by it.
Last but not least, I want to mention that the MAM has some great views of the lakefront. They are really gorgeous and breathtaking.
There is so much more I could talk about this museum, but I will just have to say, check it out for yourself! You can check out and learn more about the museum here at their website. Kids 12 and under are free and so are Wisconsin K-12 teachers. For more about their hours, their rate of admission, and just about anything else you want to know about visiting the museum, check out their website!
I’ve done a few other explore Milwaukee posts, so check out the map here for all the places I’ve done. If you click on the website listed for each marker, it will take you to the post I’ve done on that place!