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Art for All Ages

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Youth and Family Program

Pablo Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

As we get older, it can become difficult to harness the same creative energy that we possessed as kids. The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts (KIA) wants to ensure that Kalamazoo’s children have an appreciation of the arts that will stay with them as they grow up. That is where the Youth and Family Programs come in.

The Youth and Family Programs extend beyond the traditional audiences that normally attend the KIA, as children are given the opportunity to learn about art and engage in hands-on activities that inspire artistic creativity.

One such activity is the Upjohn Mason Grandchildren Interactive Gallery. Described as a “please touch” space for all ages, this gallery has a little bit of everything for the budding art enthusiast. A weaving wall, light table, and magnet play area are just some of the features available to attendees.

Art Detectives is a free monthly event held on the second Saturday of each month from September through May. Here, art becomes a family affair as children from the ages of four through eight are able to appreciate art alongside their adults. Through storytelling, guided looking, and art-making, visitors can find new ways to explore and observe different forms of artistry.

Recently, the KIA has been able to bolster their programs by hiring Jessica Sundstrom as an Assistant Curator of Youth and Family Programs. According to Michelle Stempien, KIA’s Director of Museum Education, this was done to help grow the overall audience.

“We want to have an increased focus on youth and family, as well as new audiences for the KIA. It is important to understand that art is for everyone,” she said.

Formerly an elementary teacher, Sundstrom completed her undergraduate work in art history and always had the desire to work in a museum. This led to her receiving her degree in museum education.

“My elementary students have always inspired me,” Sundstrom said. “The school that I taught at did not have an art program, so I helped put one together.”

It was experiences like this that helped Sundstrom prepare for her current role with the KIA and she couldn’t be happier.

“Being able to curate programs for the youth seems like a perfect fit and the best of both worlds for me. I get to teach art to children in a museum,” she explained.

People like Sundstrom have helped the KIA foster an inclusive artistic experience for people of all ages; however, it should be noted that the Family Program has benefited from some fantastic partners.

Many local organizations have assisted the KIA in shaping the Family Program into what it is today. Some of the current partners include Read and Write Kalamazoo, Community in Schools of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Public Library, and Boys and Girls Club.

Know of any families that would be interested in these programs? Be sure to let them know that April 13, 2019 will be the next date for Art Detectives!

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