A fine Eastern Pende Panya-Gombe African mask. Coll.: David Norden
Art of Africa for kids.
In January, families can look forward to exploring the photographs of Seydou Keita. His work focuses on Africans who have moved to urban areas in the Sudan, and highlights items that represent good fortune, such as a radio.
"It's important for children to be exposed to African art - many think Africa is a country, or that the art is only wood carvings or masks," says Charlotte Gapp, the museum's education resources coordinator. "Those are wonderful, but they should realize that there are other things as well."
1040 Grand Concourse Ave., Bronx; (718) 681-6000 or www.bxma.org . Hours: Wednesday 12-9 p.m., Thursday-Sunday 12-6 p.m. Suggested admission: Adults $5, students and seniors, $3 (free on Wednesdays). Free for members. Adults must accompany children under 12.
Brooklyn Museum of Art
A common museum dilemma: Families walk into an institution like the Brooklyn Museum wanting to see a particular collection, but don't know where to begin. After all, the museum is home to more than 1 million objects, featuring both traditional and contemporary objects as part of its African collection.
Alice Stevenson, the museum's family programs coordinator, has some advice. "The monthly 'First Saturday' celebrations are a good way to be introduced to the museum," she says. "The events are free, with programs including music, art-making, dancing and so on." If you can't make it on a Saturday, Stevenson suggests taking a copy of one of two museum guides upon arrival, which include activities, maps, and tips for families.
Want to narrow it down even more? Stevenson suggests heading for the Kanaga mask created by a Dogon artist; it's exhibited with a two-minute video that shows it being used. An important feature: The graphic mask will speak equally well (but no doubt very differently) to a preschooler and a teenager.
Namina Denis and her daughter, Aminata Conteh, 6, have been visiting the museum since Aminata was an infant. "For me, coming from Africa, I grew up around works like these," says Denis. "Children should see them. It's another kind of language. If you can't take them to Africa, Africa is right here."
200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn. (718) 638-5000 or www.brooklynmuseum.org . Hours: Wednesday-Friday 10-5 p.m. first Saturday of each month 11 a.m.-11 p.m., all other Saturdays and Sundays 11-6 p.m. Suggested admission: Adults $8, Students and seniors $4. Free to members and children under 12.
Weekend programs for families: Arty Facts art class for children ages 4-7 with an adult. Every Saturday and Sunday, 11a.m. and 2 p.m. Next African-themed program: Queen Nur performs in "Stories & Art," Dec. 11 at 4 p.m. in celebration of Kwanzaa.
Studio Museum in Harlem
Going on a trip and sending a postcard is something most kids can relate to - which is why the "Harlem Postcards" project at the Studio Museum is a great place to start when visiting the institution with children. Artists were asked to make postcards of their images of Harlem, and now families can do the same in one of the museum's workshops.
144 W. 125th St., Harlem. (212) 864-4500 or www.studiomuseum.org . Hours: Wednesday and Thursday noon-6 p.m., Friday noon-8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Suggested admission: Adults $7, seniors and students $3, Free for members and children under 12.
Family programs: Children ages 5-10, first Saturday of every month, free. Register at (212) 864-4500 ext. 264.
Museum for African Art
"Most kids, no matter who they are, describe Africa as jungles and lions - the image is very primitive," says Elsie McCabe, president of the Museum for African Art, the only independent museum in the country of its kind. "It's important to debunk that because African art is so much more."
The museum is a good place to start the debunking. While much of the collection is constantly touring or on loan, families can always see two exhibitions at this institution. Right now "Personal Affects: Power and Poetics in Contemporary South African Art" is simultaneously on view in both the museum and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, showcasing acclaimed visual and performing South African artists. "Glimpses from the South" presents woodcarvings from the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the first time these objects have been shown outside South Africa.
"Contemporary African art is certainly harder for young kids to understand than much traditional art," acknowledges McCabe. "But both are part of a magnificent cultural heritage, and parents can compare and contrast both types of art for kids."
Families should also be sure to check out the rich array of workshops coming up (print-making, anyone?) and the Family Day in December, which will focus on Kwanzaa.
36-01 43rd Ave. at 36th St. (third floor), Long Island City. (718) 784-7700, ext. 118, or www.africanart.org . Hours: Monday, Thursday and Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Admission: Adults $6, seniors, children and students $3, free for members and children under 6. Free to all 10 a.m.-11 a.m. Monday, Thursday and Friday.
Brooklyn Children's Museum
The Brooklyn Children's Museum provides a look at different kinds of artwork.
Which museum in the country was the first created just for children? Parents need look no further than their own backyards - the Brooklyn Children's Museum, founded in 1899, holds that honor. With more than 30,000 objects, the museum divides its permanent holdings into cultural and natural-history collections, with artifacts ranging from musical instruments to minerals. Items from Africa (more than 3,000 of them in total) include everyday textiles and containers, and ritual items including statues and masks.
Exhibits are changed roughly every two months, and Leon Waller, the museum's senior project developer for collections central, suggests that parents approach the objects by starting a dialogue. A necklace made of crushed greenish glass, for instance, was made from a soda bottle; a logical discussion would be to talk with kids about recycling.
And what visit would be complete without making a beeline for a shekere and ndongo? Translation: A gourd rattle from West Africa and a bowl-shaped lyre from Uganda, respectively, both part of the Music Mix exhibit.
In preparation for a visit, families can explore the museum's new Web site, Collections Central Online. Designed specifically for parents, children and educators, it offers a sneak peek of objects they'll see on display.
145 Brooklyn Avenue at St. Marks Ave. in Crown Heights. Call (718) 735-4400 or visit www.brooklynkids.org . Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m., closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission: $4; free for members. X-plorers Club, an object-based art class for kids 8 and older and an adult, is held the last two Sundays of each month (free with admission). For more, visit http://x-plorersclub.com/index.html .
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