An art museum may seem like a scary place to take young kids, but that' s a stereotype the folks at the Milwaukee Art Museum are working very hard to dispel – with lots of kid-friendly perks available for families.

* Kids 12 and under are always free.

* ArtPacks are available for free for kids to use throughout the museum. They can use them to draw, sculpt, read, or do puzzles while they take in the art.

* Kohl's Art Generation Gallery – The theme here is “rubbish”, where Director of Youth and Family Services Emily Sullivan said, “Kids can make something out of discarded materials, everything from drawing on some sort of castoff paper, or weaving with paper scraps. The materials and possibilities of what you can do are always changing.”

* Kohl's Art Generation Lab – Here kids can learn about the museum's Haitian art collection, which Sullivan described as one of the best in the world, through a variety of interactive experiences.

* Younger kids are welcome to attend story times and play dates centered around art, while there are after-school classes and summer art camps for older kids.

* The Art Museum now offers a Family Access membership for families who qualify for public assistance. Those who receive WIC, FoodShare, or BadgerCare are eligible to buy a year-long family membership for $20 rather than the regular $85 fee.

One of the most exciting things for families to do at the art museum this month is the July 24th Kohl's Art Generation Family Sunday.

The museum has these events five times a year; they are centered around a theme and have interactive artmaking activities throughout the museum for families to enjoy together.

Sullivan said this month's theme – the art museum's summer feature exhibition, Thomas Hart Benton, is particularly fun for families. “The program, Lights, Camera, ART! is all about Benton's connection to Hollywood and how movies influenced his art. It's the best of both worlds. Everybody can have fun with art, and everybody has a favorite movie too; it's two fun topics put together.”

Benton, who designed and painted film sets in the early 1900s, was inspired by early Hollywood movies, and used some moviemaking techniques to tell his own stories in his paintings.

And, on July 24th, families will be invited to be inspired by Benton's work to tell their own stories.

Sullivan said one great thing about Family Sundays is that kids and grownups get the chance to work together to create art. “For the younger kids, the parents and kids might work as a team, but they're also encouraged to work side by side on their own projects if they want. Some grownups haven't created something since they were kids, so it's a fun chance for them to have conversations with their families while they're learning about art and experimenting with materials.”

Visitors to Family Sunday are also invited to tour the exhibits, as activities are spread throughout the museum to encourage families to take in the great art works.

This is especially enticing since the museum opened its newly remodeled space last November.

Since the museum's re-opening, three Kohl's Art Generation Family Sundays have been held, so staff has gotten the chance to work out any kinks and to discover the advantages of working in the new area.

Sullivan said, “Having a whole new entrance has been wonderful, and having 1,000 new pieces of artwork on display has been great for families too. And with the renovation, we've updated the Kohl's Art Generation spaces as well.”

So, what are some of the special interactive activities families will be able to enjoy on July 24?

* Dress-up and sketch – When Thomas Hart Benton did his paintings, he would make tons of sketches in preparation, especially when drawing people. Families will be given the chance to replicate Benton's process by choosing someone to dress up in costume and then using charcoal to sketch the person.

* Get the chance to display your work at the art museum – One thing Thomas Hart Benton is known for is his larger-than-life paintings of American landscapes. Families will get the chance to imitate these works by taking part in a group mural painting. The mural will then be displayed in the Kohl's Art Generation studio.

* Make up your own scene – Benton was inspired by moviemaking, and he would sculpt his own figures and make up scenes for them. Kids and their grownups will have the chance to sculpt their own figures out of clay and make dioramas for their characters to live in.

* Learn how to act -- The art museum will be partnering with First Stage Children's Theater performers. They will be acting out scenes for visitors, who will then be invited to take part in the scene themselves.

* Become a part of art – literally! -- There will be a giant blowup of a Thomas Hart Benton portrait set up for guests to get inside, and photo-booth-style, get a lasting souvenir!

Kohl's Art Generation Family Sunday – Lights, Camera, ART! – will take place from 10-4 on Sunday, July 24 at the Milwaukee Art Museum at 700 N. Art Museum Drive. Activities are free with admission, and kids 12 and under are free. For more information, visit

Read or Share this story: