DAI helps families experience art

Online and on-site activities available for kids, including Experiencenter

Every once in a while, Alli Cardoza “swoops in” from her home in Marysville and takes her niece and nephew on a “little adventure.”

Last week, inspired by her own recent visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Aunt Alli arrived to take 6-year-old Bennett and 9-year-old Adelynn to the Dayton Art Institute.

It turned out to be the perfect outing.

“They just loved it!” says Cardoza, who planned the visit for a Friday, correctly guessing it would be a quieter time at the museum. “They especially loved the scavenger hunt, so we spent most of the time in the galleries. They had to find eight treasures and really liked plotting the course and being the navigators. The staff was extremely friendly and they got a little prize at the end.”

The colorful Treasure Map, which leads families to intriguing objects from around the world, is just one of the creative activities dreamed up by Casey Goldman, the museum’s lead educator. She’s also responsible for the recently reopened children’s gallery — The Lange Experiencenter. The pandemic has challenged her, and thousands of museum educators around the world, to come up with a variety of online offerings as well.

“In normal times, we would have been welcoming hundreds and thousands of families and children, but we haven’t been able to welcome them in the old way,” says Goldman. “The upside is that we’re realizing how important it is to have a continuing online presence.”

At-home learning

Families at home now have a variety of online options; many will continue post-pandemic. “Tiny Thursdays,” the preschool classes traditionally offered in person at the museum, are now available online as “Tiny Thursdays at Home.” The catchy twice-a-month art videos are created by Ann Woods, a popular DAI educator known affectionately as “Miss Ann.” Kids can make a clay turtle, an embossed suitcase, a torn paper seascape. Each of the projects is inspired by a piece of art from the museum and you’ll find many previous lessons online as well. It’s a great activity for a rainy day or wintry afternoon.

You don’t have to be a child to glean a lot of information from “Art Vids For Kids,” a bite-sized series of talks hosted by museum guides who’ve been invited to shed light on one of their favorite pieces of art .

Violette-Anne Onfroy-Curley, for example, picked the huge 18th century portrait of a nobleman entitled “Henry, 8th Lord Arundell of Wardour” by Sir Joshua Reynolds. She says a 7-year-old friend calls the painting “The man with the pantaloon.”

Onfroy-Curley shares tidbits ranging from the fabrics in Henry’s clothing to clues about his position in life. “It is called a dress sword because it wasn’t used for battle, but instead worn only for show so that others knew your place in society,” she explains. After detailing the various fabrics in Henry’s lavish cape, she suggests children look for those same fabrics the next time they go to a store that sells clothes and curtains. “Ask the adult with you to help you find velvet and silk,” she suggests. “Then see if it feels how you thought it would when you looked at this painting.”

You’ll find creative projects for the whole family online at ARTventure, a variety of downloadable art-making experiences for various age groups. You’ll learn how to make everything from cardboard tube sculptures to African-inspired masks, use metal embossing techniques to create pendants inspired by ancient South American artworks, leaf texture collage.

The ABC’s of Art

Before COVID hit, Goldman had planned the next exhibit for The Lange Family Experiencenter — “ABCs of Art.” The idea was to explain various art materials and techniques through a playful exploration of the alphabet.

The show, originally designed to include some hands-on activities, has been revamped and dubbed “hands-off, brains-on.” The attractive display isn’t in alphabetical order, but does feature every letter of the alphabet along with a matching artistic term and a piece of original art from the museum’s collection.

Walk around the gallery and you’ll see paintings, sculptures, drawings and textile designs. Families can go from A to Z — through not in alphabetical order — and discover terms from “Abstract” (meaning it doesn’t look the way it would in real life) to “Zoo Morphic“(meaning it takes the form of an animal).

Cardoza found the Experiencenter a nice place to take a break and let her niece and nephew run around a bit. They especially loved frolicking in front of the colorful interactive wall and watching the butterflies flutter in the always-popular “Shimmering Madness,” the DAI’s kinetic sculpture by Sandy Skoglund. The butterflies and jellybean figures are always a hit.

Beavercreek nanny Emma Zinkiewicz recently took her two charges — ages 4 and 6 — to the museum for the first time since COVID.

“Both of them love art and we do all kinds of art every day,” Zinkiewicz notes. ``We spent about an hour at the museum and their eyes lit up; they really enjoyed it. We saw Asian and African art and we walked around the outdoor sculptures. We tell stories about the art and I love helping them use their imaginations.”

Meet Casey Goldman

It’s been about two years since Casey Goldman took on the role of lead museum educator. In addition to the children’s programming and exhibits, she also works with adult education and the 18 museum guides who are about to start this year’s training. Family tours can now be scheduled and will begin Oct. 22. (If you’re interested, email schooltours@daytonart.org.)

Did you know the museum now offers noise-cancelling headphones and other sensory materials for youth and adults? These can be borrowed from the guest services desk at any time. “Headphones provide an enhanced experience for those with sound-sensitivity or who may simply want a break from their aural-environment,” says Goldman. “Sensory materials offer a tactile experience often beneficial to children who have autism, developmental disabilities, or who have hypo- or hyper-sensitivities.”

Goldman attributes her career choice to a childhood in eastern West Virginia where there weren’t many museums or cultural institutions. “I was always creative as a child. My mom built and painted dollhouses with me and my father taught me to play piano when I was 8,” she says. It was a bit of culture shock when she headed for art school in Washington, D.C.

“I fell into gallery teaching by way of a paid work-study program in college and was instantly sold. Teaching directly from objects was just the coolest thing to me!”

“I’m passionate about creating educational experiences because I myself am a lifelong learner,” Goldman says. “Seeing the ‘light bulb’ turn on above the heads of museum guests or classroom students is the most rewarding thing. And I believe that learning can occur during literally any life event, in any room or space.

“The arts are a creative outlet, a safe way to cope, and an invaluable way to experience the world outside of ourselves, so it’s my mission to negotiate those engagements between art and learners.”



  • General admission to the DAI, which includes access to the collection galleries, all exhibitions and The Lange Family Experiencenter is: $15 adults; $10 seniors (60+), active military and groups (10 or more); $5 students (18+ w/ID) and youth (ages 7–17); free for children (ages 6 & younger). Admission is also free for museum members.
  • Search for art treasures from around the world with a treasure hunt map you can pick up at the museum’s guest services desk in the lobby.
  • iPad stations are located throughout the galleries and always open to What is a Masterpiece. Most artworks on that app have a “kids content” section: whatisamasterpiece.daytonartinstitute.org.

Interact remotely

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