I like art museums. When I first made the transition from teaching to informal museum education, I was specifically interested in art museums. I wanted to teach families how to connect with the artwork by creating hands-on interactives for hands-off museums.
Here are 14 ideas to enhance engagement at art museums:
1. First, visit the museum store to buy a postcard featuring artwork currently on view – at least one postcard per family member. Ask a staff member for recommendations or to confirm that the chosen postcards are accessible in the gallery. Then, find the piece of art from the postcard in the gallery. Once you find the postcard artwork, try activity 2, 3, 4 or 5 on the back.
2. Imagine you have become a part of the artwork. Use your senses to describe what you can see, smell, hear, taste and touch.
3. List the materials used to create the artwork – this is especially good for contemporary art museums.
4. Write a poem about the artwork you selected – use sensory words from #2 or materials from #3.
5. Create a subtitle or caption for the artwork.
6. Have family members search the museum for the painting, sculpture or object that best represents themselves. Take turns sharing everyone’s choices or try to guess.
7. Scavenger hunts…before you go, make a list of items based on a theme below. Try to find all the items on your list in the art throughout the museum.
- Countries (where the art was created)
- Materials (used to create the art)
8. Choose one category from above, or come up with your own, and track the number of times you find items from that category in the art. For example, how many dogs can you spy throughout the museum?
9. Break into two teams, and explore different galleries. Write down interesting objects you find in the artwork, like a blue vase or ice skates. Trade lists and explore the opposite gallery with your new scavenger hunt.
10. Compare two paintings or objects that are side by side in the gallery. What is the same? What is different?
11. Imitate the pose, expressions, and body movements of the sculptures in the museum. Remember, no touching!
12. Find a portrait. What do you know about the person depicted in the artwork? Create a biography for this person based on clothing, facial features, the setting, and other objects in the piece of art.
13. Imagine yourself as a character in a painting. Interview another person in the painting. Draw a comic or filmstrip of the interview.
14. Create an ABC art book or chart. Find an artist, title, material, subject or object in the art for each letter of the alphabet. Write the word or a description for each letter. Revisit your trip and share memories at home as you add images for each letter.
What is your favorite way to explore an art museum?