The Art Institute of Chicago: Family Selfies Encouraged

Art Institute of Chicago: Credit Adam Alexander Photography

The Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) wants families to have fun in their halls. That means you don’t have to whisper, and you certainly don’t have to walk in a straight line to see the museum. You can skip down the hall, ask questions and even make some art of your own with the family.

AIC does invites visitors to interact with their art in many ways. Their website has a lot of photos of their most famous pieces of art. They encourage parents to print out a few of them and bring them along as a sort of scavenger hunt.

Parents don’t have to worry about not knowing some of the art that’s in the AIC’s walls. Most people will recognize Grant Wood’s American Gothic – the painting of the man and woman with a pitchfork in front of an Iowa farmhouse – or Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, the painting that looks into a bright street diner from the dark Greenwich Avenue in New York City.

AIC suggests parents choose their scavenger hunt photos by their child’s development level. For example, a baby may be fascinated with bold, brightly colored modern art or art with faces and activities they would recognize like a child in a bath or a mother holding her child. Older kids may be more interested in activities found in paintings like picnics or dancing.

Speaking of those activities, how about a family game where you imitate what’s in the painting. See if your family can pose like the stoic man and woman in American Gothic, or if they can recreate Picasso’s mother and child painting.

To make it even more kid-appealing, take a selfie with a painting. Rebecca Baldwin, director of public affairs at AIC, suggests. “The most photographed work in the museum is probably Grant Wood’s American Gothic, because it is so recognizable to so much of the world. People come from all over to see that painting and a lot of them like to pose in front of it,” she said. “It was one of the first photos Katy Perry took when she visited the museum last summer.”

Baldwin also suggests every family should visit the Ryan Education Center at the museum and do some art-making activities, get a self-guide to the museum and play games. “You can introduce children to the museum’s encyclopedic collection with a variety of hands-on activities in the Vitale Family Room, where you’ll find puzzles based on masterpieces you’ll see in the galleries and art books for young readers,” she said. “You can register for workshops and other programs. Themes change constantly, so there’s always something new to do.”

Like most museums, AIC does have a “no touch” policy, but there’s one room where that rule does not apply. Of course, it’s a favorite among families. Baldwin said, “In the Elizabeth Morse Touch Gallery, children can experience how the sense of touch can enrich their appreciation of art.”

The Touch Gallery was originally designed for visitors with visual impairments, but it quickly became a place for everyone to touch art. The sculptures in the gallery are all of the human face. They are made from bronze and marble and represent different periods in art history. Families love to explore facial expressions, clothing styles and accessories on the sculptures using only their sense of touch.
The whole family will walk away from the AIC at the end of the day with a great experience and a few framable selfies.

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