Museum of Contemporary
MCA Family Days (free)
Hands-on art activities;
Age 12 and under
The Art Institute of
Gallery visits feature stories
and games; Age 3-5
Artist's Studio (free)
Draw and explore the
Modern Wing; Age 6-12
Hubbard Street Dance
Discover Dance Family Workshops
Movement workshops led by
HSDC teaching artists; Age 3-8*
HS2 Family Matinee (free)
Performances and activities
are featured; Age 3-12
Civic Orchestra of Chicago Concerts
The training orchestra of the
CSO, the Civic showcases the
most promising classical
musicians; Age: 8 and older
A walk through the Art Institute of Chicago, a Tony
Award-winning play at Goodman Theatre or a special concert at
Symphony Center-for as long as you can remember, you've taken
pleasure in them. They are occasions that still resonate and may
even be bound up in important personal histories. It is where you
first discovered you loved Modigliani or Mozart, or where your
husband took you on your first date.
Now as your children grow, you want to instill in them an
appreciation for the arts as part of your legacy. With your
family's full schedule and the economy challenging many household
budgets, not to mention the seemingly limitless activities vying
for your youngster's attention, what is the best way to begin
engaging your child in the city's cultural landscape? Educators at
some of Chicago's leading arts organizations weighed in with
practical advice about cultivating children's interest in one of
the world's ultimate urban classrooms.
"Limit your focus. The biggest mistake is trying to do a
whole museum. Three objects and lunch is a nice introduction,"
advises Jean Sousa, director of interpretive exhibitions and family
programs at the Art Institute. "Many children have collections, so
talk about the museum as a collection."
Goodman's director of Education and Community Engagement,
Willa Taylor, says children are natural arts patrons. "Kids do
theater and performance all the time. They have imaginary friends.
They have vivid internal scenes happening and you just have to tap
into that." Active engagement is key. After seeing a play,
Taylor recommends reading the story at home and acting out the
scenes. "If your child says the table is a castle, go with
Steppenwolf Theatre's Young Adult Artistic and Educational
Director Hallie Gordon suggests attending performances that allow
kids to talk to the actors or go backstage.
But arts educators also emphasize the importance of not
underestimating what your child might enjoy.
Mark Riggleman, director of education at Lyric Opera,
proposes this season's "The Mikado" (which ends Jan. 21) as an
ideal introduction to opera for children because it's comical and
performed in English.
In addition to numerous children's books about opera and
music, the Web can be a useful tool for parents. The webisode,
"There's Nothing Like Lyric," gives young viewers an idea of what
happens at the opera house.
Beyond the concert hall, parents can create a conducive
environment at home by playing music, says Charles Grode, vice
president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Institute for
Learning, Access and Training.
The payoff shouldn't be overlooked. Playing an instrument,
for example, can help young children master mathematical concepts.
Performing music with other kids can develop strong teamwork
"Exposure to the arts allows children to explore other
ways of communicating. It allows them to see multiple
perspectives," says Kathryn Humphreys, Hubbard Street Dance
Chicago's director of Education and Community Programs.
"Art changes how we see the world," says Sousa.
Taylor believes the biggest advantage is that "the arts
encourage children to see the beauty in the everyday."
Jennifer A. Moran is a freelance writer living in Chicago.
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