Today’s second Spotlight Sunday feature is the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Art Splash summer program. Emily Schreiner graciously spoke to us and gave us great information on the program.
What is your job at the museum and how long have you worked there?
“I am an associate curator of education for family and community learning. I’ve been at the museum for 6 1/2 years. What that means is that I oversee all the different programs that we do for family audiences and community audiences. That is primarily looking at adults coming with kids out of school time. Families visiting during leisure time. A lot of our programming happens on the weekends and over winter break and summer break. Art Splash is our big summer break program.”
Tell me a bit about the Art Splash program?
“Art Splash is now in its third year. It started as an initiative to take a lot of programming we had in place and bump it up, ten fold. So, what would it look like to do family programming more on a festival scale over the course of a whole summer? Art Splash runs from July 4th week through Labor Day. This year, we go all the way through September 7. It offers opportunities to families to explore the museum in a way that’s age appropriate and designed for them all summer long. Art Splash has been in a different location each year and had a different theme. This year we are in the museums main building and we have a whole chunk of the building that we’re calling “Art Splash Zone”, on the ground floor. It’s really easy to get to. It includes a gallery with art work from the museums collection that are paired with interactive activities for families to do that encourage them to have a playful experience but also look closely at the art in the collection. A studio space so they can make art inspired by the collection and by our bi-weekly themes. That studio space also has a reading area in it, a block area, a 16-foot long chalkboard in a beautiful sunlit space that people just come in and are like “wow, I want to hang out here for a couple of hours”. We also do tours every day to get people up into the galleries seeing the art in the collection. New this year, we did the museums first mobile app, which also takes people on a scavenger hunt through the galleries. It’s a busy summer and we have a lot of stuff to offer families who come in. One of the reasons we offer so many options is because we know families come in all shapes and sizes with kids of all different ages. Whoever comes in the door, we have something for them. We want to make them feel comfortable and let them know that they belong here at the museum.”
Why do you think it’s important for there to be a program specifically for children?
“Art Splash is a family program, meaning that it is for adults and kids to do together. The reason we think that’s really important is because a lot of adults don’t feel comfortable exploring the museum with their kids just by themselves. They don’t know quite what to do, they don’t know what to say about the art, they’re worried that their kids are going to misbehave or break a rule. Having programs like this where you can both be in a separate space where kids can really explore and have fun and them setting them up with something like an app or tours to do up in the galleries. It gives family a structure to their visit and it helps them boost confidence to know that they belong here, that they can participate here in their own way and that kids are going to have a good time.”
Do you believe that technology has improved art or damaged creativity in art?
“I think in the best possible world, it will have fostered interest in art. The museum has a really robust website which people from all over the world can connect with artwork in our collection. That’s a beautiful thing. An issue that we have here is wayfinding. People get lost in our building. We have over 200 galleries and people get turned around. We have an internal team that has built wayfinding software that allows people to take a designed tour through the galleries and not get lost. It works sort of like Google maps. Our goal with the app was to find ways to bring people closer to the artwork, not to push them away. It’s not like a video game that you happen to be standing in a gallery and doing. Some information that we love, as educators, to share with the public that is really not that suited to do so on a wall label. Like pictures of people installing, pictures of artists creating the artwork, videos of how someone carves woodwork and prompting them “if you like this, check this thing out”. Those are things that are really rich ways of engaging people in the galleries that can really only be achieved through technology. So our goal with using technology is to bring people closer to the art and not a distraction from the collection. The rest of our programs are designed to be a family experience so maybe the adult is the way finder or the kid is the way finder. A lot of the activities prompt you to do something with your family. Or you do this thing and your grown-up does this other thing. So it is still in the service of intergenerational interaction. We want to use the museum galleries as a space to bring families closer together. I think one of the wonderful things about being in a museum is that your phone isn’t ringing and the radio’s not on and the TV is not on. It actually gives you a space to be able to slow down and share an actual experience together. And so we certainly would want to be enhancing that and not distracting from it.”
What do you think is the most important reason for people to come to the art museum and have an appreciation for art?
“I think we really want to raise kids to be creative thinkers and creative problem-solvers. There’s not a lot of art that’s happening in schools right now. But we want kids to have all of the many benefits that come out of learning the creative process, becoming creative thinkers. I think the museum is a perfect place to come and do that. To give people not only an opportunity to express themselves creatively, to explore something different, but also to use a different piece of their brain. You use a different piece of your bread when you’re making art. It’s an important muscle to exercise, one that’s very important to use as a child. The target age range for Art Splash is ages 3 to 10 with an adult, so preschool to elementary school. Kids at that point aren’t intimidated about making art. Intimidation starts when they reach puberty, so you want to make sure that you really stack them up with artistic experiences there in that preschool to elementary age range and push them to continue that when they continue middle school and high school. I have a really fantastic team of people. We work on Art Splash together and the studio projects all strive to be something that people from all different ages and ability levels can do or do together.”
Who and why should people come to the museum?
“One of the things that I think is really important for people to know, is that Art Splash has a lot of opportunities for people to visit the museum even if they feel that it might not be in the budget. First of all, kids 12 and under are always free at the museum, which is really fantastic when you compare it to other museums. That’s really remarkable for a big museum like ours. And we have a lot of opportunities for what we call “pay what you wish”. You have to pay something, but you can pay a dollar instead of full admission if that’s what you can afford. We do that every Wednesday starting at 5 PM and the first Sunday of every month. And Art Splash does stay open late on Wednesdays till 7 o’clock. So people can come in during that time. Our goal is for people from every walk of life to be able to experience the museum together. In the last two years, this is the third year of the program, about 30% of audiences have come in either free or reduced admission through “pay what you wish” opportunities, through direct community outreach engagement that we do through our community programming arm. It’s a really wonderful way for the whole region to come together and celebrate summer and art. We hear a lot of people who come to the museum the first time on “pay what you wish” and are like, “Wow! You guys do this all the time?”, and then buy a membership. Membership is a really wonderful way to support the museum year round but also to be able to come all year long.”
How much are the memberships?
“A single adult membership is $75 a year. A membership for two adults, it can be people that do not live in the same household, is $125. That includes unlimited admission throughout the year for the adults, the kids are always free, it gives you a discount on parking, on all the restaurants, cafeteria, café, in the store and tickets to our special exhibitions. Right now we do have a ticketed exhibition on Impressionism. It’s beautiful. Membership includes tickets to that as well. Membership is a really awesome way to take advantage. There is also an Art Splash membership deal. The membership deal is 10% off through September 7 with the code MSPLASHEDU. Call 215-684-7840 or visit philamuseum.org/membership.”