Category Archives: Family Events

25 Mini-Adventures at the PMA

By Molly Braswell
Learning and Interpretation Assistant

Inspired by Mamascout’s blog post, “25 mini-adventures in the library,” we wanted to share 25 mini-adventures for families to have at the PMA!

1. Grab a museum map from the Visitor Experience Desk. Now, with your eyes closed, point to a spot on the map. Open your eyes–that’s where you should explore today!

2. Pick a gallery and spend 10 minutes there. After 10 minutes have everyone in your family present their favorite piece and explain why they picked it.

3. Bring sketchbooks and pencils. Sit in a gallery and draw for a while.

4. Explore the new PMA Family Space: Design Lab.

5. Visit the McLellan House. Which room you would want as your bedroom if you lived there in the 1800s? Talk about what life would be like if this were your house—what would you eat or wear?

6. Bring a blank postcard to the museum, or pick one up in the PMA Store. Draw your favorite painting on the back and mail it to a friend.

7. Grab a cell phone and dial into Family Voices Cell Phone Tour.

8. Introduce yourself to a Gallery Officer. Ask what their favorite painting is in the gallery.

9. Check out the PMA’s Sculpture Gallery, then explore Portland on foot and look for more sculptures. Which are your favorites?

10. Visit a local antiques or furniture store. Pick out pieces that you think would look good in the McLellan House.

11. Come to a PMA Picks and hear PMA staff talk about their favorite works of art.

12. Sit on a bench in a gallery and make up stories about the other museum visitors. Who are they? Where are they from? Are they from Maine or visiting from away? Which artwork in that gallery do you think is their favorite?

13. Head up to the third floor to Voice of Design: 25 Years of Architalx. Touch the 17-foot tall tower. What happens? What do you see?

14. Visit the four Stop and Look Stations located through the museum. Each family member can listen to a different audio clip and then summarize it for the others.

15. Look up! Pay attention to the architecture of the PMA. Take the stairs and think about why the architect chose to put the windows and stairs where he did.

16. Go on a safari! Find as many animals in works of art as you can. Split into teams and explore the museum. Did both teams count the same number of animals?

17. Have family members take turns standing in front of paintings and closing their eyes. The other family members can try to describe the painting. Once the family member opens their eyes, you can see how successful you were.

18. Find a painting with a lot going on and make up a story about what is happening. Who are the people in the painting? What are their names? What happened right before this scene? What happened right after?

19. Visit the PMA and then take a walk in the woods. Look at the trees and the flowers like you would look at a painting; notice all of the colors and shapes in nature.

20. Look at the paintings of boats, fishermen, and the ocean in the second floor gallery, then take a walk down to the wharfs. Do the boats look the same as in the painting? What is different?

21. Give your kids each a few dollars to pick out their own treats at the PMA Cafe. Enjoy your snacks while you talk about the artwork you saw that day.

22. Visit the PMA Store. Browse the selection of children’s books and creative games.

23. After your day at the PMA, go home and select objects from your house to create your own museum exhibition.

24. Invite your friends and take them on your own PMA tour.

25. Pick an artist you like and then walk to the Portland Public Library down the street! Look up that artist and read about their life.

Designing a Design Lab: Interview with Kyo Bannai

By Julia Einstein, Assistant Director of Family and Studio Learning

Join us for the opening of PMA Family Space: Design Lab, on February 19–a perfect activity for your family during February school vacation! The PMA Family Space is an interactive room in the McLellan House dedicated to families exploring, creating, and most importantly, having fun! This year, as part of The Artist + Family Project, we are inviting artists from the community to interpret the museum’s collections in new ways and to construct family-friendly activities for the PMA Family Space.

The first artist to transform the space is local architect/designer Kyo Bannai. Inspired by the context of the McLellan House, Kyo incorporated elements of architectural design for families with children of all ages to enter in and become designers!

Give us a bit of background about yourself in the world of architecture, your influences, etc.
Although both my parents are designers, architects, and developers, I didn’t quite understand why one would become a designer—I guess I could attribute it to nearsightedness. It was always around and pervasive. For a while I was too busy learning about cadavers! It didn’t occur to me until decades later that everything inside a body was designed just so. And now, I see how everything around us is designed. The paper clip or the pencil on your desk was designed for utility. The teacher’s lesson was designed to convey a certain idea. Even the giraffe’s neck is designed for survival.

Describe the Design Lab concept.
A primary guideline was to interpret the museum’s collections in new ways. Being an architect it made sense for me to think about the PMA’s unique and impressive collection of buildings that make up the main part of the museum: the McLellan House (built in 1801), the Sweat Galleries (opened in 1911), and the Payson Building (opened in 1983.) Over its course of history these additions, renovations, and restorations contributed to physical, functional, and emotive changes inside and out. So, my concept started with the statement: “The museum is constantly changing… and every change alters its surroundings.”

The asking of the questions and the invitation to respond is the premise. What does this look like in the experience you’ve created for the Design Lab?
Recently my husband and I took our kids to the International Spy Museum while in Washington D.C. We loved the way we were given an alias upon arrival and instructed to be that person on the card and go through “spy training.” How fun is that? Pretending to be a designer is obviously not quite as sexy, but this was the idea I was aiming to emulate.

Upon arrival you can pick up a Design Lab Workbook at the Admissions Desk to experience the designer’s process through exploration of museum “hot spots,” sites where you’ll sketch your observations, then return to the Design Lab to share what you saw. Everyone has the choice to build their ideas and to post them onto the charrette wall. It’s a bit like online social media, isn’t it?

To further the community idea building, a special bonus will take place on a Free Friday evening event when family ideas will be compiled and presented. It’ll be a collaboration with many people participating in a visionary process! How thrilling, especially for the young ones, to see their ideas become a part of an installation at the Portland Museum of Art?

February and Families in the Galleries

By Julia Einstein, Assistant Director of Family and Studio Learning

School vacation week is the perfect time for families to discover new adventures in their own backyard. From Neo-Classicial sculptures to Impressionist paintings of Europe, let the PMA take your family on a worldly tour—all without leaving the museum!

Family Voices Cell Phone Tour
To get the most out of your family’s visit, make sure you have your cellphone with you! With a quick call, you and your child can listen to audio tours of other children with their parents discussing works in the museum’s collection. Designed to encourage you and your family into the conversation. Bring art to life and dial in some fun!

Stop and Look Stations
Stop and Look Stations, encourage your child to take the lead! Located throughout the galleries, each station is equipped with audio iPods, cards with questions and facts about artwork, and interactive learning tools. Families with children of all ages will experience an array of perspectives for a variety of learning styles. Enjoy a take-away card to continue the conversation at home.

PMA Family Space
This brand new activity room is located in the Federal-era McLellan House. Throughout the year, different artists will curate new, artful activities for you family in the space. Draw a family portrait or sit at the writing desk and share your museum experience. Look at art, read, draw, and play together!

PMA Café
A clean plate is the best kind of happy meal! We’ve added new, kid-friendly items to our menu for a delicious break from your museum visit. Peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, and macaroni and cheese are great options for lunch, while we also have apples with peanut butter, Stonyfield yogurt, and Aurora Provision’s snack mix for a lighter treat. Questions about the menu or an item you’d like to see? Ask our staff, we’re happy to help however we can!