If you would could extract all the kids’ programs in an art museum that kids go wild for into a facility of its own and amplified the volume up 100 percent, you would get the Children’s Museum of the Arts in Manhattan’s gorgeous SoHo district. We always have a grand time roaming around the streets of New York City, my hometown, popping in and out of restaurants and shops and running around in the countless parks throughout the city. The almost yearly trips to the city seem to have a different nuance as the kids get older year by year, and this trip felt special in that we were experiencing the familiar in new ways through kids’ maturing minds and discovering the unfamiliar through playdates and more kid centric activities. The city is like a living organism that never stop evolving but will always have the same comforting familiarity, like an old best friend – I love you New York. OK, ode to New York over, on to the fabulous museum!
The museum was started in 1988 by Kathleen Schneider and its new 10,000 SF facility located now in SoHo was opened in 2011. The facility’s teachers are all practicing professional artists, and their passion for the arts serve the kids community up to age 15 through working with drawings, sculpture, sound art, textiles, and even stop-motion animation. The museum is dedicated to promoting art to all, as they believe it’s a necessity for the general well-being of children personally and academically. Their programs include children with learning disabilities, foster care and the homeless and 27% of families use the facility free of charge. CMA is a museum dedicated to not only hands on art creating and learning but also to preserving children’s art, housing the largest collection of children’s art dating back to the 1930’s from all parts of the world. I find that so incredibly unique and important - experiencing history through children’s innocent minds through art. I wished more of this art was on display.
We unfortunately missed out on the Wee Arts daily Drop-In class for children’s 5 and under before opening hours, but it seemed like something any child would thoroughly enjoy – a family collaboration class including art of course infused with music and story times. The lounge was a great feature upon entry with plenty of room to park strollers and rounding up young visitors. Museeum kids ran into the WEE Arts Studio and Art Labs in excitement as we began our tour of the facility with Newlin Tillotson, our Press contact. Their definite favorite feature of the room was the slimy yet rubbery home made “Flubber”. It was something they went back to at least a dozen more times in between visiting the art stations. The art lab was filled with everything you could want to create mixed media art pieces with odds and ends, glue, paints, and more.
One of the big hot spots of the museum is the Clay Bar in the Media Lab. A sign up is recommended upon entry to ensure a spot in their on-going class sessions throughout the day. The theme for our day there was Fantasy Lands – so appropriate and intriguing. The instructor led the class through step by step to create our own lands, through ongoing discourse with each participant and taking time to assist every child’s whimsical idea. He did a great job bringing each kid into their own fantasy world by talking through their ideas and encouraging each kid to go deeper and create more. My daughter was especially engrossed in developing her mini-trees and rivers as she is really interested in clay, aerial maps and miniatures in separate capacities right now, and in her own time loves to create her own little worlds in her bedroom. At the end of class, they were very satisfied leaving with their very own Unicorn World and Dinosaur Land in hands.
Walking through and appreciating their Gallery space was inspiring, discussing the intriguing art from local artists while moving through the museum to the next location to create more of our own art. The Fine Arts studio was my personal favorite in the museum. There were several projects to work on, which we dived right into. I loved that each space had their own current themes and gave the kids some framework to follow yet allowed freedom to do what you want within those parameters. A perfect way to learn how to manipulate materials and express yourself. Instructors were pleasantly aloof but available for any assistance or questions. The most eye catching was the large center hand washing station, which my son especially enjoyed. He washed his hands on his own multiple times through our time there, a mother’s dream, needing to go back to the “space ship” for even more hand washing to which I happily permitted. It was so cute seeing them in their much too large paint smocks and doing art on the easels. It reminded me of my high school and college days spending countless hours engrossed in projects of my own. Making our own coffee filter flowers was a fun activity. My son almost exclusively used his current favorite tool, the stapler, to work on the majority of the project.
We ended our journey through CMA with of course trips to the museum shop and small snack stand. As we sat in the lobby enjoying our snacks and discussing our day, my daughter expressed her interest to “come back tomorrow”. I was saddened to inform her that since we are visitors to the city we won’t have a chance to, but that it will be a place to add to our schedules whenever we come back to our beloved New York.