The Collegian
Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Modlin Center and University Museums hosts annual Family Arts Day

The staff of University Museums and Modlin Center for the Arts hosted the fifth annual Family Arts Day on Sunday, featuring face painting, stick puppets and an instrument petting zoo, in the Modlin Center lobby.

This year's theme centered on "Carnival of the Animals," a piece ensemble-in-residence eighth blackbird performed for the event. Each movement featured instruments that sounded like a certain animal. The group altered the original "Carnival of the Animals" to include Australian animals because its flute player Tim Munro is Australian.

Animal drawings by Australian artist Michael Luenig were shown on a screen behind the musicians, and the children in the audience waved the stick puppets they had made earlier that day when the group played the song that corresponded to the puppet animal they had chosen. More than 100 people attended the concert, including university faculty and students.

"Family Arts Day has been a tradition here," said Shannon Hooker, assistant director of the Modlin Center. "It started with the museums doing hands-on art activities and people touring the museums. Modlin has joined this year for the full arts experience. We're trying to get families excited about the arts."

Hooker coordinated this year's instrument petting zoo, where children could observe a variety of instruments and learn how they worked. Members of the University Chamber Ensembles also performed, she said.

The Modlin Center has been trying to include more performances for pre-k through 12th grade children and more educational activities, Hooker said, so the staff took advantage of having eighth blackbird perform a funny song they were familiar with as a way of promoting the Modlin Center in the community and attracting families with young children.

"We attract people that just want to do something creative, exciting and fun and extremely affordable," she said. "Some people look forward to this every year and come back."

But, there are just as many people who come to see the museums and Modlin for the first time, Hooker said.

Although Modlin staff has co-sponsored Family Arts Day twice during the fall, the museums staff hosts the event in the spring, as well, Hooker said. The staff also provide the food and craft supplies for the event. It is a big push from the museums staff to engage the community, she said.

"Pretty much everyone who comes to Family Arts Day walks through our exhibits," said Heather Campbell, curator of museum programs. If the families don't want to take an official tour, they can see the museums as part of the interactive Arts Day activities. "We always have a scavenger hunt where kids and parents work together to explore what we have on view," she said.

Campbell said that every Family Arts Day was unique because the exhibits changed. Materials are recycled, but ideas are not. saidd Denisse DeLeon, coordinator of museum visitor and tour services.

The University Museums are special, De Leon said, because of their encompassing collection of shells, prints and fossils. "Yet, we are able because of our size and location at the university to display that art in different ways and work with the students to customize and create a more tailored experience when they visit the museum," she said.

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This fall's exhibits are Buckminster Fuller's inventions and the 2012 Harnett Biennial print exhibit in the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art and Ti-Ameny-Net , a mummy exhibit, in the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature .

Claire, who wished only to be known by her first name, came with her two children on Sunday for the first time.

Claire wanted to tour the museums if they had time, she said, but they had come mainly for the concert and the craft activities. She had never seen eighth blackbird perform, she said. She said she would likely come again because the event offered a variety of kid-friendly activities. "It's nice to see people out," Claire said.

"I think it's great for kids to be exposed to the museums, and with kids, it's nice to know they'll be welcome and not interrupting something."

Everyone should become involved with the arts because it is healthy, Campbell said. "I think it's healthy for families to experience art together in all different types. I think it broadens people's perspectives."

Contact staff writer Rachel Bevels at

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