I always love an excuse to visit Glen Echo Park. There’s always a family-friendly event going on and I recently discovered Art Explorers Family Studio. Housed in the Candy Corner, picture a small and brightly colored space dedicated for children and their parents to explore different art mediums together in a relaxed setting. Sign me up!
During the week, the studio is home to a preschool program called Playgroup in the Park (PGiP). Combined by the Reggio Emilia approach of child exploration and art enrichment, PGiP transforms into the Art Explorers Family Studio on Saturdays. The drop-in art studio takes place every Saturday year round (with some exceptions). This is not a drop the kids off kind of place. The intention is for parents and their children to connect and explore art together. Best for ages 10 and under, the fee is $10 per child. Registration is not necessary as this is a drop in program so you can come anytime between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Activities change weekly. Below is our experience, but past activities have included painting with cars, ball painting and mosaics.
During our visit we were met by the cheerful teaching duo, Laura and Emma. When I asked about the inspiration for PGiP, Laura beemed, “my master’s thesis came to life.” Laura is a resident artist in Glen Echo Park and she yearned for a space for children to create art as a family in a carefree environment. Since the room is used during the week for their preschool program, it’s not unusual to see a play kitchen, dress up clothes, blocks, cars, magna tiles and books. Even better, children can enjoy play time exploring these objects as part of the studio visit.
The price was nominal given the number of opportunities for creative play and learning. During our visit, my 8 year old daughter and I made cherry blossoms using natural materials such as sticks along with paint, tissue paper, glitter and pom-poms. There was no limit to the number of blossom branches we could make so together we made three. Instead of taking our creation home, we decided to leave it as inspiration for other families.
Being that it was a nice day outside, easels were ready for a painting project. Two easels were set up with paper, textured paint brushes and spray bottles of paint. I want to point out that my daughter splattered the non-toxic paint on her new shoes so definitely wear clothes you don’t mind getting messy. Again, there’s no limit to the number of paintings you want to make. My daughter made two pictures and hung them to dry on the clothesline outside the studio.
The final activity was to play in the dirt…literally! Using a spray bottle and plain old dirt, we made mud pies. Laura asked us what plants need to grow and then gave us seed packets to make and take home. From radishes to sunflowers, you do the entire process together, parent and child. We got a cup, scooped up some dirt, inserted some seeds, piled on more dirt and spritzed it with water.
While your artwork is drying, visit the playground, carousel (open seasonally), visit the nature museum, take in a puppet or theatre show or grab a snack from the outdoor cupcake stand or the café. We popped into the yurts to look at some pottery.
- Playgroup in the Park is hosting a 5 or 10 week summer session for children who are six months to two and a half years old with their parents from June 8 to August 14, 2015.
- Little Echoes is a drop-off program with a preschool approach for children three to five years old.
- PGiP is also currently forming a group for parents with new infants. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet other new parents and play with your baby in our inspiring classroom.
Donations of unwanted items of any kind are gladly accepted. Contact PGiP via their website if you have unwanted treasures in need of a good home. Since our family visits Glen Echo a few times a year, I plan on returning this summer to see what new themed art activities are in store at the Candy Corner studio. There is a possibility of them having extended hours during the summer.
Photos by Kathleen Molloy.