Children and art museum blend beautifully thanks to planned programs

Two-year-old Max dips a paintbrush into blue watercolor and dabs the paint onto the frontside of a blank postcard. The little artist then blends in orange, purple and black.

When he finally set his brush down for good, my son had created a beautiful postcard ready to be mailed to his Uncle David, who lives in California.

The art project was part of a program called 1st Saturdays, at the Columbus Museum of Art, 480 E. Broad St. Held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month, it’s one of several activities at the recently renovated museum geared to engage families in the arts.

First Saturdays occur from September through May and are recommended for families with children ages 3-8. Activities include a hands-on craft, a live performance and free range of the museum’s exhibits, which include works by Renoir, Degas and Monet. The program is covered in the cost of admission.

My family of four visited on a Saturday in April, when the museum’s spotlighted artist was George Bellows, a Columbus native known for painting scenes of urban life and sporting events.

Bellows’ paintings inspired the postcard craft in an area called Derby Court, a cavernous space featuring a vibrant glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly. We grabbed paints, stamps and stickers from a large assortment of supplies to create our postcards.

Afterward we headed to the auditorium to listen to a barbershop chorus belt out upbeat tunes, an American pastime also inspired by Bellows’ artwork.

Max and his 4-year-old sister, Rosie, liked the Wonder Room best, though. And it’s no wonder. The swankily decorated family space is filled with interactive displays that are intermingled with museum pieces, meant to serve as inspiration for guests to create their own works of art.

One station has kids assembling out-of-this-world animals out of wooden body parts with magnetic connectors. Another contains a wall full of common metal gadgets, such as silverware and door hinges, that can be affixed to a giant metal head to give it a face.

And yet another display honors American artist Alexander Calder, who created colorful mobiles inspired by the movement of the sun and the moon. Visitors are encouraged to construct mobiles by balancing bright shapes on metal bases.

The space provides plenty to do and makes a family visit to the museum worthwhile anytime.

A great day to bring older children is on Family Sundays, when activities are geared toward children ages 6 and up and admission is free. Coupled with free parking, located behind the museum, it’s a good deal.

The museum is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday; and 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. on Thursday. The museum is closed on Monday.

Admission is $12 for adults ($6 with an AAA membership) and free for children ages 5 and younger.

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