I have a budding artist in my household. My little enthusiast has a room with an easel, paints, play-doh, etc. She is particularly fascinated with scotch tape and well, glue is where I draw the line! I thought it would be fitting to pay a visit to Maryland’s largest art museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMOA).
From 2 to 5pm on Sundays, the BMOA offers a program called “Free Family Sundays.” A theme is designated for each month and each week a different workshop correlates with the theme. Activities vary and include designing Suzani snowflakes, painting stenciled wall hangings, creating felt mats and making animal masks. The theme for the month of February is the arts of Africa and Asia. The program is free and is walk-in.
We were greeted by a cheerful staff member who asked us where we were visiting from and asked if it was our first time. Since a child was in tow, she pointed out additional points of interest we may want to check out after the workshop.
We passed some African artifacts and watched as several families excited the museum’s classroom. One hour into the workshop the room was packed. It was a little intimidating and confusing because there were no directions on how to proceed. Since I knew the workshop was about making containers from clay, I took it upon myself to take a chunk of the clay that sat on a cart. Next to it were some popsicle sticks and toothpicks. I grabbed a few sticks and sat my daughter down at one of the vacant seats.
It was then a sign on the wall suggested putting something in or on the clay pot. Very simple tools such as plastic forks, knives and the odd rolling tools and. Ten minutes into our project, we flagged down one of three employees for assistance. Twice we were told that someone would be with us in a minute, and yet, no one came. I was disappointed because we had to fend for ourselves and find tools and decorations for the project from other tables. What was even stranger was that some of the parents were hoarding all the sequins used to decorate the clay containers. It was as if the parents wanted to participate in the perfection of art rather than letting their kids use free form thinking.
After twenty minutes, my daughter was done – just like that. We waited for ten minutes to wash our hands at the one sink that was in the room. We never did get sought after help from any of the staff which kind of dampened the experience. Nonetheless, my daughter received complaints from other families as she decided to create a non-container piece of art. Plus, there were other fun things to experience in the museum.
Adjacent to the classroom is the Miniature Rooms collection. My child loved this little exhibit which had stepstools making it easy for little ones to peek into the windows of different mini dollhouse style furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries. While she didn’t fully understand it, we both embraced that someone collected tiny gems from the London Shop Exterior in the Regency Style, Domestic Interior in a Shaker Community, and New England Sea Captain’s Study filled with a lighthouse and tiny ships in bottles.
Make time to browse the Cone Collection with works from Picasso, Degas, Renoir and the largest Matisse collection. Other museum highlights include Rodin’s The Thinker and the Sculpture Garden.
Take advantage of the free, family audio tour. Narrated by Matisse’s schnauzer Raoudi, the handheld device highlights objects in the collection. You can see the symbol of a headset marked “Family” to prompt you to play. There are also guided family tours on the last Sunday of every month from 2 to 2:45pm.
I recommend heading to the museum early on the weekend to not only take advantage of Free Family Sundays, but also to pick up a free costume pack. Available at the Family Fun Stop in Schaeffer Court, children can get costume packs inspired by art such as the tutu inspired by Degas’ Little Dancer or carry a Native American bandolier.
The excellent gift shop has a large section devoted to children with different budgets in mind. Items include art supplies, stickers of famous artists’ works, books on art and literature and dollhouses.
The Baltimore Museum of Art offers plenty of activities for children, but I recommend them for ages 4 and up. While our experience wasn’t stellar, it was free and fun. If we lived closer, we would return to participate in another workshop. I would like to spend more time exploring the rest of the museum or see a summer jazz concert in the sculpture garden.
- The BMOA is open Wednesday to Friday from 10am to 5pm and weekends from 11am to 6pm.
- Admission is free.
- Limited pay parking is available in the museum lot. Street parking is .50 cents an hour with a 4 hour limit and is free on Sundays.
- The contemporary wing is under renovation until this fall.
- Flash photography is prohibited.
- Food and drink are not permitted in the galleries or the auditorium.
- There are free lockers and coat check in the lobby. You must store strollers, backpack carriers and diaper bags at the coat check.
- A baby changing station is available in the lobby restroom.
- Gertrude’s restaurant is on site during limited hours.
- Up next for Family Sundays: March: Prints with Pizzazz, April: Spring in the American Wing.