If you’ve been looking for a family-friendly way to enjoy art with your kids, look no further than Family Day at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. With its welcoming approach and high-profile partnerships, Family Day stands out as an engaging event for kids and adults alike.
Mayra Cecilia Palafox, the Manager of Learning, Students and Families at MCA, is spearheading this initiative with a mission to create a warm, inclusive and inspiring experience for all ages.
“After working at museums all over the country like The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley and The Art Institute of Chicago, I wanted to create a community-centered space for Chicago families while highlighting great contemporary Chicago artists,” says Palafox.
The heart of Family Day: themes that explore diversity and creativity
Family Days take place the second Saturday of every month. All Family Day activities are free with your admission to the museum. ASL interpretation is included and programs are offered in both English and Spanish.
PocketCon is the focus of December’s Family Day. This unique comics convention brings creators together, offering workshops, open art studios, panels, teen-created video games and much more. PocketCon highlights the works of artists and writers of color, women and LGBTQ+ creators.
This Family Day event is Saturday, Dec. 9, 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
“Family Day is so exciting because you are engaging with hundreds of other people, learning the process of artists and connecting with your own family unit. It’s a magical experience,” says Palafox.
Artistic process: learning together as a family
Family Day encourages both parents and children to be learners together, says Palafox. The focus is on diverse family units, welcoming not only biological families but also chosen families, friends and individuals.
Artists, often parents themselves, lead workshops that provide insight into their creative processes.
Palafox strives to make Family Day as interactive as possible, with families invited inside the actual galleries for much of the programming. “We want our families to feel comfortable interacting with our art and we want kids and adults to discover things together,” she says.
This mission of comfort extends to physical comfort, with pillows being offered to families who are observing art or participating in an art project in one of the galleries.
“We believe that if you are physically at ease, you can let your imagination and creativity soar,” says Palafox.
Incredible partnerships make Family Day a truly unique experience
The artists themselves are part of what makes Family Day so special.
“What’s great about modern contemporary art is that we are displaying and exploring the work of living artists,” Palafox says.
Collaborations with artists like Assaf Evron, a father and professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, show guests how art can touch many areas of life. For example, Evron’s work connects art with natural history. His themes of caves, skulls and animal pelts serve as entry points for exploring how artists draw inspiration from the natural world.
Interesting to note: Evron is married to artist Nelly Agassi.
“We loved having both Assaf and Nelly present their art,” says Palafox. “Both from an artistic point of view and as a representation of living artists who are also raising a family.”
Inspired by Evron’s work with the natural world, Palafox was inspired to partner with Chicago’s iconic Field Museum. Peggy MacNamara, Artist-in-Residence at the Field, is a recent Family Day collaborator.
“This partnership was a great way to not only connect with another Chicago museum, but also showed how different artists and their themes are interconnected,” notes Palafox.
Embracing bilingualism and beyond at the Museum of Contemporary Art
“I’m an immigrant from Mexico and I used to go to museums in Chicago with my mother and translate for her,” says Palafox. “This experience inspired me to want to get involved in museums as a career, in part so that I could make the museum experience more accessible to everyone.”
Texts on the walls are in both Spanish and English, and there are plans to include translations in other languages, showcasing a commitment to accessibility.
“I’m happy to see the MCA take this bilingual initiative through public programming.” says Palafox.
Success stories and future visions
Since its inception in October, Family Day has seen a growing number of participants. The success lies not only in the numbers but in the sense of community and learning that Family Day fosters.
Looking ahead, the vision for Family Day is to maintain its warm and inviting atmosphere. Palafox envisions a space where everyone feels a sense of belonging, where art is accessible and nurtures visitors. With upcoming themes exploring different family units and collaborations with businesses like KIDO Chicago, the museum aims to deepen its connections with the community, making every family and individual feel welcome.
“Our goal is that everyone feels that art is meaningful, relatable and accessible. We want to emphasize that art is not beyond anyone’s reach – it’s for everyone.”