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‘Family Day’ at Harvard Art Museums: A New Kind of Inclusivity

A Undergraduate Ho Family Student Guide leading a "See-Think-Wonder" session at "Family Day" at Harvard Art Museums on Nov. 19.
A Undergraduate Ho Family Student Guide leading a "See-Think-Wonder" session at "Family Day" at Harvard Art Museums on Nov. 19. By Courtesy of Sarah Lieberman
By Emerson L. Giese, Crimson Staff Writer

On Sunday Nov. 19, the Harvard Art Museums was full of young voices speaking a variety of languages. The atmosphere was loud, more interactive, and more inclusive than ever before. The museum was filled with families taking part in a kind of joyous exploration as part of Harvard Art Museums’ “Family Day” programming.

The activities of the day included a materials lab, coloring tables, the See-Think-Wonder Gallery Tour, a scavenger hunt, and art-making workshops in which families could build and recreate some of the pieces in the museum. Each activity allowed families to form genuine connections with not just each other but also with the works of art. Families worked together to build sculptures, and therefore found connection with art not only as a viewer, but as a creator as well. Children went on tours led by graduate students who broke the art pieces down into the most simple of its parts, including the size and colors of the work.

Parents participating in the event included Johanna Malaga and Yuchri Jou. Each family shared their enjoyment of the event.

“This is a great educational program for my kid,” Jou said of the day.

Sarah M. Lieberman, an alumnus of the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Arts and Education, worked with her mentor Louisa Penfold to put on this event.

“Last year we had one in February that brought in roughly 50 people. It was just for Harvard campus families to really get a feel for how we could utilize the space. Then the one in April was public and the first one we ever held on a weekend day. It brought in 400 people. This year was the first time that we pre-registered the event. I’m so happy to say that it sold out at capacity at 500, and we have more coming. It has just been a real pleasure to be able to keep working with young audiences while still growing as a teen, college-age, and adult educator here at the Harvard Art Museums.”

The continual increase in the numbers of participants revealed the significance of this event. Malaga found the experience to be especially exciting for her child.

“He really liked just looking around and they were giving out these little notebooks and so he was practicing drawing everything he saw,” said Malaga.

Furthermore, the event facilitated these kinds of interactions in conversation with art, which was exactly what Lieberman was hoping for.

“I’m just happy for kids to be in this space,” Lieberman said.“I think that that’s the first step. I’m happy for them to do whatever they want in here as long as they’re enjoying themselves and having fun in an art museum.”

For some families, like that of Malaga, the day marked a new experience for her child.

“It’s his first time in an art museum, so that’s special,” Malaga said.

Lieberman also shared her intention of creating and organizing “Family Day.”

“My hope is that by giving them these opportunities to do a scavenger hunt in the museum where they’re finding things and having conversations with their caregivers, or being creative in the makerspace and doing something hands-on, they’re able to connect to a work of art and build that personal connection from a really young age,” said Lieberman. “And hopefully that fosters a sense of belonging and welcome that starts a lifelong career of museum-going.”

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