University of Georgia
November 2015
The Arts
Museum marks<br> three decades<br> of sharing art

At the end of Family Day, participants get to show off their artistic creations. “I am always excited to see so many new families at each Family Day, but I also love to get to know families who come back regularly,” said Carissa DiCindio, curator of education.

Museum marks three decades of sharing art

Family Day at the Georgia Museum of Art prompts children to participate in the artistic process.

The Georgia Museum of Art’s monthly event has now officially been welcoming and inspiring families and young artists for three decades, creating a community of thousands. Now consistently attracting about 200–250 visitors each month, Family Day began as a small project in the studio classroom and has transformed into a museum-wide, gallery-filling morning of artistic energy.

Formulated around current exhibitions, themes from the permanent collection and, sometimes, wider community issues, Family Days allow the museum to build new ways for visitors to access and connect with works of art and see art in action. Usually beginning with a walk through the exhibitions, amplified with a guide in addition to games, scavenger hunts or other activities that inform art-making activities in the museum’s studio space, Family Day prompts children to participate in art, contextualizing what they see through tactile learning, while parents are able to engage with displays and their children in an encouraging, low-pressure environment. This approachable atmosphere, so often the biggest compliment from satisfied parents, is what makes Family Day such a celebration for the community.

The museum has made an effort to involve arts experts in the program—not only the museum’s excellent education staff or the students from a variety of majors who often act as volunteers, but professionals in arts fields relating to each event. From staff at Athens’ Double Dutch Press, who helped run a printmaking themed Family Day, to the puppeteers from South Carolina’s Columbia Marionette Theatre, who aided in and performed at the puppetry-themed morning, Family Day has become a way to draw on these sources of knowledge from the Athens and wider arts communities and expose visitors to a range of artistic practice.

Carissa DiCindio, curator of education, has worked for more than a decade to cultivate Family Day into its current form and continues to be involved in its progress.

“I am always excited to see so many new families at each Family Day, but I also love to get to know families who come back regularly,” she said when asked about what she enjoys most in her work with Family Day. “Having been in the education department for a long time, it’s been a wonderful experience to watch kids grow up at the museum.”

Now, the events are reaching far more people than my hands can attend to.

— Brenda Wade

Callan Steinmann, the museum’s associate curator of education, has run Family Day over the last two years and advocated for further focus on community and inclusion.

“It’s very important to me that we encourage the whole family to talk about and engage with art and see the museum as an activated space, that we connect the museum to the community, build relationships and allow visitors to feel comfortable in museum spaces,” she said.

This combination of expertise and approachability has been a winning formula. One person who has seen this evolution firsthand is Brenda Wade, who has worked with the museum for more than 18 years.

“I have seen Family Day grow from an afternoon project to a lively, anticipated event,” she said. “When it first started, I would spend downtime at my desk cutting out fabrics or shapes for the children to use. Now, the events are reaching far more people than my hands can attend to. You see fantastic groups of people coming back every month over the years, along with new individuals and families every week.”

As the museum celebrates 30 years of Family Day, it celebrates 30 years of community, she said, 360 days filled with abstract thinking and questioned surroundings, thousands of empowered visitors, hundreds of dirty hands and messy aprons and, most of all, the knowledge that art is for everyone.

— Francesca Nicol, Georgia Museum of Art