WCMA: Fun, successful Family Day celebrates African Art

After last week’s tumultuous winter weather, Saturday was unusually pleasant. However, a storm of activity could be found inside the Williams College Museum of Art, which was hosting its annual Family Day.

This year’s African-themed event attracted families from all across the region to take part in numerous kid-friendly activities. Approximately 900 museum guests turned out. Many were return visitors who have made the event a family tradition.

An art museum, with its barren floor space and aseptic, white walls, can be inaccessible to children who have little interest in the intermittent painting, photograph or sculpture. But, on Family Day, the usually daunting museum is transformed into a veritable playground of kid-oriented exhibits. It’s downright fun.

Art remained the focus of the museum experience, but rather than just looking at art, the visitors created it. Sprawling craft stations could be found in various gallery spaces. In keeping with the African-oriented theme, the projects included crafting drums, baskets, masks, chimes and felt pictures. The variety of crafts that could be produced is a testimony to what can be accomplished with construction paper, scotch tape, household throw-aways and a little bit of youthful ingenuity.

Alexander Baker of Greenfield, who came to Family Day with his mom, was hard at work on two African masks. He decided to stick to the traditional, face technique on his second go with the cardboard box creations. Proving there is no limit to the creativity of a young artistic mind, Alexander’s initial Titanic-themed “mask” bespoke of his particular film proclivities.

Taking full advantage of the wide array of offerings, Max Reinhardt of Williamstown planned to participate in each of the individual projects. He had already made a striking mask, complete with ears, eyes, mouth, mustache and character-building nose, as well as a large aluminum can drum. When I spoke to Max he was supervising his father’s production of a construction paper basket. One of the many return visitors to Family Day, the Reinhardt family missed last year’s event as they were in Costa Rica. Max gave the event possibly the highest praise of the day: he was not sure if he preferred Family Day or Costa Rica.

While Max’s commendation is hard to beat, praise of Saturday’s event was unanimous. Children of all ages declared that Family Day was “fun.” Parents were not having a bad time either. The Raffaela family comes every year from near Albany in New York. Mr. Raffaela expressed that the annual event is “great” and that “who ever organizes it does a great job.” His three daughters, Kristin, Kimberly and Jennifer, agreed that the day was, in all regards, fun. Their favorite part was the movements workshop, in which African dance moves were taught.

The movements workshop was representative of the cultural-oriented activities the museum had to offer. Throughout the day, drumming workshops and story-telling sessions occurred, providing African-themed activities and an outlet for artistically drained individuals. Cookies and juice were available for sustenance.

Barbara Robertson was largely responsible for the day’s success. As WCMA Director of Education, she has organized Family Day for ten years. She felt that the 1999 event went well and, thanks to this year’s especially wide array of activities, there were “no tears.”

Robertson noted that the event has accrued a loyal following and that she has watched many of the participants grow up over the course of successive Family Days. Robertson also organizes the museum associate program. Over 20 Williams students from the program assisted with the day’s events.

By hosting Family Day, WCMA provides the community with a great asset. Not only are children getting introduced to the riches that the museum has to offer, but everyone has a whole lot of fun!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *