The Art Institute of Chicago is a crown jewel of the city, but with thousands and thousands of pieces of art on display, families can be a bit unsure how to discover the treasures that kids will love. Here are three tried-and-true ways to take your next visit from play dough to Picasso.
Jump on JourneyMaker
If you’ve already taken your tiny dancer to see Degas’ painting “Ballet at the Paris Opera,” your warrior has ooohed and aaahed over all the armor, and your family has marveled over the minute details in the Thorne Rooms, you may be wondering what to see next. JourneyMaker has the answer. Not only does it take you to see new pieces, but it also makes sure you have a unique adventure, every. single. time.
JourneyMaker combines art with choose-your-own-adventure stories. It’s an interactive experience that begins either online or on devices in the newly refreshed Family Room of the Ryan Learning Center. Families choose from eight possible storylines: time travel, superheroes, strange creatures, museum sleepover, wild style, which is aimed at fashionistas, and lines, shapes and colors (for early learners).
After selecting a storyline, kids select both a magical vehicle and a magical object to take along on their adventure. Two hundred and fifty works in the collection are part of the experience. Some, like the sculpture Conductor for the Monkey Band or a Baga snake headdress, are included because they are less well known, yet still exciting. Others are old favorites to see in a new way—like considering whether a monster could live under the bed in VanGogh’s “The Bedroom.”
The program gives a personalized guide with directions that take families to five different pieces of art. (That’s awesome because, let’s be honest, the museum is huge and directions are pretty much always helpful, especially when you’re juggling little ones.)
Upon completing their journey, kids return to the Family Room and get a prize. With more than 260,000 possible combinations, JourneyMaker means that each trip to the Art Institute is unique and interactive.
Create your own art
As part of your visit, kids can also create their own masterpieces. Before or after their adventure, families drop by the Artist’s Studio in the Ryan Learning Center, which offers rotating activities every day designed for kids and their caregivers.
We’re fans of saving it for the end of the visit so kids can explore the materials that they’ve encountered in the museum first-hand.
Discover and dance
At the annual Diwali Family Festival on Nov. 4, families can also enjoy a wide variety of interactive experiences including art making, participatory dance workshops, and other creative practices across a wide range of media. This year’s activities will focus on the temporary exhibit India Modern: The Paintings of M.F. Husain.
The Ryan Learning Center is always free. Children under 14 are admitted free to the Art Institute, as are Chicago teens under 18. LINK and WIC cardholder also receive free general admission as part of the Museums for All program.