Working to Weave Education into Gallery Experience

Finding innovative ways to tie education into the gallery has always been a top priority at Mansfield Art Center.  We’ve been pondering over some new and exciting ideas that we think would help children become more involved with what is happening in our galleries. We feel one way to accomplish this is to offer ways in which children can interact and connect with the exhibits. Many children attend workshops at the center, where they learn techniques and develop their creativity in our classrooms. That’s a great thing and we don’t want to change that! But we wondered, how could we offer other opportunities, as well, which would enable them to experience the Gallery? Because art is a very important part of a child’s education and we want to give them the best experience possible.

Children usually arrive with their parents for workshops and they typically spend about an hour in class. One new thought on a different approach would be to make activities available over more time throughout the day, so essentially the children could experience a “day of fun” at the center. This might include lunch outside at picnic tables, a visit to the current exhibit and then participating in related activities, such as games, puzzles or crafts.

Plans are currently being worked out to get funding to transform one of the center’s rooms, located off of the Lower Gallery, into a children’s activity center. The general thought is to make an area where children can gather and create their own art or do fun things that coincide with the exhibits. Some changes to this space would include art supplies stocked on shelves and backpacks filled with art activities, inspired by the art in the gallery, which would be made available for children to complete while viewing the exhibit. Other ideas include having a place where children can build 3-Dimensional art and furnishing the activity center with comfortable seating which would offer a more “kid-friendly” space. Mansfield Art Center is working to try and make this possible through a grant from Richland County Foundation, a non-profit, and a great supporter of the center.

The first event, which will take place in the Main Gallery upstairs, is a puppet show on October 8. Storyteller and puppeteer, Barbara Damron will present a fun re-telling of two stories of friendship and honesty. Her Queen Bee Puppetry wool table puppets will share an African folk tale Akimba and the Magic Animals; and then her silk marionettes shall take the stage and re-tell The Empty Pot, which is a Chinese folk tale. This is a free event for children and adults of all ages.

Queen Bee will return later in the month of October for a second event. She will have more of her puppets, namely one Gisela the Elf and her story apron! This show will involve a sewing project for children, and with the help of a parent, children will get a chance to sew caterpillar and butterfly felt finger puppets and roll wool cocoons. In this way, children can watch and hear puppets tell a story, and afterwards they can have fun creating their own finger puppets.

We are excited and think this is a good start for tying education into our galleries. Would you like to see more hands-on interaction for your child or children at the Mansfield Art Center? We welcome your thoughts, plus any ideas you may have on ways to tie education in the galleries. Leave us a comment and tell us what you think!

Thank you and see you at the center!