News Column

Blanton summer family programs see art, make art

June 27, 2014

By Nicole Villalpando, Austin American-Statesman

June 27--

The children seated cross-legged at docent Mary Kate Fredriksen's feet are answering her question about what will happen to "The Big Blue Spot" in the book by Peter Holwitz. "Who thinks there will be something different?" she asks.

Hands shoot up. Then one little girls says, "I think it will be a chicken."

They are seated underneath the painting "Untitled" by Ray Parker during a Storytime Tour at the Blanton Museum of Art. Like the book, "Untitled" has a few big blue spots. As she goes through the book, the blue spot meets a yellow spot and they make a green blob.

"We can learn that colors mix together," Fredriksen says. "They make very beautiful colors." She points to the painting and the kids see how colors mix together to make the different hues of blue.

In another part of the museum, docent Gary Kattner is showing another group Joan Mitchell's painting "Rock Bottom" while reading "Simon's Book" by Henrik Drescher. Kattner talks about the message of the book and the painting: life is messy and it is OK to make a mess.

Kattner, an artist himself, loves to figure out how the artist made the work and he hopes to get kids thinking about that, too. He pulls out a bunch of tools from his bag. Some are what you expect, like paint brushes of various sizes. Others are unexpected, like a whisk, a spatula.

"There's an opportunity here," he says. "I'm not just talking about art, but about science, too." With older children he'll even go into the way eyes work to see the colors.

The docents get to pick which books they want to read and which corresponding artworks to highlight. Storytime Tours, which are 30-minutes long and designed for kids ages 3-7, are one of three summer family programs the Blanton is offering this year.

Ray Williams, director of education and academic affairs, says the museum has been transitioning in the past few years to include more family programming because that's what the public wants. "We need to respond, but not in a superficial way," he says.

Instead, he wants to teach families how to look at art, to slow down, to consider how it makes you feel, to have a conversation about it. Art, he says, teaches kids about themselves and others and about the world around them.

Part of that education is about how to be in an art museum. "It's very different than a children's museum or a science museum," he says. So, kids have to learn not to touch in order to be respectful of the art that needs to be preserved for others to enjoy years later. Parents sometimes need that reminder, too.

The Blanton's family programs also make art. During WorkLab, the whole family gets to be creative. Monique O'Neil, museum educator, purposefully designed the lab to include long worktables with shared materials for people to start a conversation about what they are making. The workshop is filled with materials, everything from sequins to shells, wood and ribbons, glitter glue and buttons.

And it really is for the whole family. Sometimes O'Neil says parents are surprised and ask, "I can make art, too?" Yes, parents and caregivers can model creativity for their little artists, but they should let the kids do their own work. Often, she sees kids teaching their parents or caregivers.

WorkLab is designed for 30-minute sessions and sometimes there's a wait to get in. And, like real artists, sometimes you don't get to finish a piece of artwork in one session. But that's also a lesson, O'Neil says. You can take it home and finish it later.

For older kids, ages 8-13, Deeper Dives allows them to sit with a piece of art longer and spend more time making art. The 90-minute program takes them into the current exhibit, "In the Company of Cats and Dogs," and closely looks at some of the works. Each time it's a different work that's the focus. Kids then leave the gallery and make artwork based on the work they just explored.

"We're looking at art together and making art together," Williams says.


Blanton Museum's summer family programs

WorkLab. Drop in and create art. 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, through Aug. 8.

Storytime Tours. Take a 30-minute thematic tour of the museum and make art. For ages 3-7. 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, through Aug. 8.

Deeper Dives. Explore the exhibit "In the Company of Cats and Dogs" and make art. For ages 8-13. 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, through Aug. 8.

Free for children, $9 adults except on Thursdays when the museum is free. Stop by the visitor's desk to get a reserved ticket. Note the museum will be closed July 4. Blanton Museum of Art, 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr.

Find out more about "In the Company of Cats and Dogs" exhibit next Saturday in Life & Arts.

More family events

SkyCandy's "Cosmicomics." Tales of creation get told in magical form through this aerial circus. $12-$22. 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive.

Sound & Cinema. Watch "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" 6 p.m. Wednesday and "E.T." 6 p.m.July 16 on the Long Center's terrace. Free. Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive.

"National Velvet." Watch the movie that made Elizabeth Taylor famous, plus there's a horse. 4 p.m.July 5 and 2 p.m.July 6. $12. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress

Pollyanna Theatre Co.'s "Peter & the Piper." Peter marches to the beat of his own drummer, yet gets made fun of when he doesn't enjoy the same music as everyone else. 2 p.m.July 12, 13, 19 and 20; 4 p.m.July 12 and 19. $9-$12.50. Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive.

Children's Day Art Park. Listen to music, plus try out different instruments and make art. 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays, July 9-30. 50 cents. Symphony Square, 1101 Red River

Go Fish! events. Learn to fish at local state parks. 9 a.m.July 12, Bastrop State Park, and 9 a.m.July 19, Buescher State Park.

Free First Sundays at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. 3 p.m. screening of "Homeward Bound" as part of the Made in Texas series. July 6. Plus, 11 a.m. story times on Tuesdays and exploration stations at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursdays. Bullock Texas State History Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. 512-936-4649,

Nature Nights. Play in the new Family Garden and throughout the grounds. 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays, July 10-24. Learn about snakes July 10; wildlife tracking, July 17; and birds of prey, July 24. Free. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse

Family Game Night. Build your own game board, play giant chess and checkers as a family and play with your food. $17 child, $15 parent. 6-9 p.m.July 11. Thinkery, 1830 Simond

More events at the Thinkery: Spark Club. Build, explore and tinker for ages 8-13. 5-7 p.m. Wednesdays. Lead On! National Tour. Eye to Eye presents activities and stories designed for children with learning disabilities. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.July 13.

"Oklahoma!" The Zilker Summer Musical takes us north, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. 8:30 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays July 11-Aug. 16. Free, but donations welcome. $5 parking. Beverly S. Sheffield Zilker Hillside Theatre, 2301 Barton Springs Road.

Second Saturdays Art Workshops. Make ice cube art. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.July 12. $10 per family. The Contemporary Austin, Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th

Family Day at Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum. Enjoy story time, sculpture demonstrations, music, yoga and more. Free. Noon-4 p.m.July 13. 605 Robert E. Lee Road.

Ahora sÍ! recommends:

Hear "Dear Primo" by Duncan Tonatiuh at this month's bilingual story time. 10:30 a.m.July 12. Free. Simply Seeds. Learn the history of the seed mural in Tepoztlan, Mexico, and make your own seed painting. 1 p.m.July 12. $12. Both events are at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.


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