Saturday, November 8, 2003

Art museum and kids do mix, at education center

By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Keaton Smith, 9 (left) and Zachary Ziv, 8, pose in the mirror after donning Victorian duds at the Cincinnati Art Museum's new education center Thursday.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |
EDEN PARK - The Cincinnati Art Museum has a new motto for children: Please DO Touch.

Saturday the museum opened an education center with hands-on activities to appeal to ages 5-12.

"We're trying to create ways to engage children," said Ted Lind, curator of education.

Programs in the education center will change periodically to parallel museum exhibits. Now, for example, children can dress in Victorian costumes that complement an exhibit on dressmaking in Cincinnati from 1877 to 1922.

Early childhood programming will begin in January. As the year progresses, more activities will be tied into the education center's offerings, said Marion Cosgrove Rauch, assistant curator of education for youth and family prorgrams

What: Cincinnati Art Museum
When: Education Center hours: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 1-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Where: 953 Eden Park Drive, in Eden Park
Information: (513) 721-2787 or Web site.
Lind said art museums nationwide are reinventing themselves in creative ways to appeal to entire families. It's a national trend - but not new, just reinvigorated.

"This is a trend that's been evident for the last 30 years, but it's really gathered steam the past five to 10 years," said Robert Martin, director of the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C.

Art museums, in particular, which have long been perceived as "elitist and stuffy," are trying to alter that perception by providing more opportunities for people of all ages, Martin said.

The Cincinnati Art Museum's new education center, its themed family days and free admission (in place since June) are all part of a long-range plan to be more accessible to everyone.

So far, officials say it's working. Turnout for the occasional family days was high enough to warrant a major expansion of that program to nine days a year. Attendance in general has increased 22 percent since June, when admission fees were eliminated.

Nationally, museums of all types spent more than $1 billion in 2002 for educational programming on site and at schools. The CAM's new education center will be used to enhance this area as well.

"The core notion is providing value to the public and the value focuses on providing opportunities for learning," Martin said.


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