Art on the go

Free program draws kids, families to museum to create art projects

Miranda Fowler, Parsons, looks at a box her daughter Heather, 10, center, decorated during a break at the Spencer Museum of Arts Art Cart, Saturday, May 4, 2013. Heather and her sister Madison 12, were applying stickers and drawings to the boxes to be used later for a container for small objects or a collection. The museum's Art Cart rotates each month to a different area of the museum and considers a specific exhibit or are of work. This months activities are centered around the Cabinet of Curiosity.

Madison Shanks, 4, decorates a box she can use to keep a collection of objects in as part of the Spencer Museum of Art’s Art Cart program May 4 at the museum. The free program is designed for children and families to drop in and create art projects tied to exhibits and artwork at the museum. May’s Art Cart ties into the museum’s Cabinet of Curiosity exhibit.

If you go

The Spencer Museum of Art’s Art Cart, a free, drop-in art program, is available to children and families each weekend during the gallery’s hours, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays, 1301 Mississippi St. on the Kansas University campus.

On a recent Saturday morning, the weather outside was disgusting, but it wasn’t enough to keep kids from filling the fourth floor gallery of the Spencer Art Museum. The draw? The museum’s weekend Art Cart.

The Art Cart is a drop-in, hands-on art-making activity tied to specific parts of the Spencer’s art collection. The cart moves around the museum monthly, with the art project changing to tie in with the gallery where the cart is located.

Since it began in 2012, the Art Cart has included things like drawing with watercolor pencils to showcase a screen print of the Kaw river; tissue-paper stained glass to tie in with the museum’s medieval stained glass; African mask-making to go with the real life African masks; and ribbon-paper weaving to highlight a textile piece.

This month, the theme is “Cabinets of Curiosity.” Information on the cart instructs kids and their families to consider a specific painting showing 17th century collectors categorizing exotic objects and paintings — a precursor to the first museums.

Then, with boxes, crayons, stickers and paper provided on the cart, kids are encouraged to make their own cabinet of curiosity — a small box with an accordion-folded catalog of drawings or stickers tucked inside.

Kristina Walker, the Spencer’s director of education, said that while anyone is welcome to participate, the Art Cart was primarily designed as a way for families to work together and interact with the art collections.

The goal is to encourage intergenerational connection. To that end, while a volunteer is usually standing by to answer questions, the Art Cart is informal.

“Families come back each month, and it changes so there’s always something new. You can spend as little or as much time as you want, so it’s a nice way to interact with the works of art and with your family members,” Walker said.

While the Art Cart is for all ages — and, indeed, even a 2-year-old enjoyed making his own small cabinet of dinosaur stickers and butterflies — it would probably be enjoyed most by kids in late pre-school or elementary school.

It’s open the same hours as the public galleries — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.

If you’re looking for a bit more organized activity, the Spencer has that, too.

On the last Saturday of each month, the museum hosts a “Saturday Art Adventure” at 10:30 a.m. This is a more formal activity, guided by an art educator or artist. It lasts for an hour, with the first half spent in a gallery and the last half doing a hands-on activity.

This month the theme is “What a Wonderful World.”

The discussion will be about art in nature, and will culminate in kids making sun art prints to take home.