by Liza Mitchell
Art is not just for grown-ups anymore. Programs designed specifically for children of all ages are sprouting up all over the city. Children can learn the basic principles of art in various mediums in addition to learning the importance of self-expression through art. Classes for different ages and skill levels are offered at local galleries, several branches of the Jacksonville Public Library and by private instruction at other locations. Families can also work together at some of these places to create projects to take home.
At the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, children can enjoy the gallery’s interactive art area, called Art Connections, that provides a creative outlet for pint-sized Picassos while also giving them a feel for the true museum experience.
Silvia Romero, associate director of the museum’s education department, says that the earlier children are exposed to art museums, the more likely they are to enjoy the museum experience as adults. “We do receive a variety of feedback regarding the importance of exposure to the arts and the significance of understanding being in a ‘real’ museum, including how to behave,” Romero says.
Art Connections features a visual timeline of art through videos, music and hands-on sculptures. Based on the museum’s own collection, the interactive display takes kids on a chronological journey through over 30,000 years of art history.
Participants can create their own painting before their eyes using cyber-brush strokes on the wall-size canvas called “Picture Perfect.” Kids can print their masterpieces to take home and cherish. Children can also create a self-portrait by tracing over a computer image of themselves with their fingertips.
Other activities include leaf rubbings, creating a garden collage and the sensory delight of watching their shadow move with music on a lighted, rainbow-colored wall. There is also an area designed for the diminutive DaVincis ages 18 months to 5 years.
The Cummer offers a variety of children’s classes throughout the year for all age groups. All classes offer paint, drawing, clay and a variety of other mediums. “Art for Two” is featured one Saturday per month for children ages 3 to 5 with a parent or guardian. The monthly theme reflects pieces found in one of the museum’s permanent collection.
Romero cites, as an example, the museum’s Meissen Porcelain collection, thhrough which children may express themselves by having a tea party, singing the song ‘I’m a Little Teacup’ and sculpting their own teacups out of clay.
“This specifically teaches children to work as a team to problem-solve, make decisions and create art using a specific theme relating to the museum’s collection or gardens,” Romero says. Fostering an early appreciation of the arts also helps nurture critical thinking, development of fine motor skills and the unbridled imagination of a child.
“Art Adventures” is held once a month for children ages six to 12. This program “aims students toward art-making with more in-depth problem solving in addition to planning and organizing,” Romero said.
Taking kids to galleries is a great idea but enabling them to create works of art on their own with professionals to help guide them is where the real benefit lies. It challenges children to think outside the box and have something to show for it, inside and out.
See below for a listing of upcoming art programs for your child.

“ArtFusion,” a free family activity, is held on Sundays in the Art Exploration loft on the fifth floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA). Families can enjoy 16 interactive stations to create their own works of art related to the museum’s permanent collection. Admission is free for kids and accompanying adults from noon to 4 pm every Sunday.

Jacksonville Public Library
The Jacksonville Public Library hosts a variety of children’s art endeavors each month at branches throughout the city. “Art on the Square” will be held at 1 pm on Wednesday, January 4 in the children’s room of the Southeast Branch Library. The event will feature arts and crafts for children ages 2 to 5 with a parent or adult caregiver. Registration is available on the morning of the event.
At the Ponte Vedra Branch Library, elementary-age students in grades K through 5 can enjoy an afternoon of “After School Crafts” with teen mentors from the Nease High School Arts in Motion Club. Activities are held in the library’s PGA Media Room. All materials are provided, the event is free and no registration is required. All kids under 10 must have adult supervision.
“Family Art Time” is offered at 3:30 pm on Thursday, January 5 at the Willowbranch Library. The program is available for families with kids ages 12 and under to make a special art project together.
The Pablo Creek Library also hosts “Family Art Time” at 10:30 am on Tuesday, January 10 in Community Room A. The event is open to all ages. Children and their families are encouraged to craft fun and creative projects to help kids develop cognitive and physical skills. All supplies are provided using recycled materials. Participants should bring a smock or an old T-shirt. Tickets are available prior to the program at the children’s reference desk. Call 992-7101 for information.

On January 21, the Museum of Science and History (MOSH) will host a “Lego Building Competition” designed to help nurture the link between creativity and science education. The competition is open to participants in grades K through 9. Kids can work in teams or as individuals to create original designs. Registration is under way. Call 396-MOSH for information.