Crazy About Crafts: 4 Under-the-Radar Art Workshops

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When it comes to art workshops at the city’s top museums, you and the kids have done it all. You’ve watercolored at the Whitney, made mosaics at the Met, glazed at the Guggenheim and muraled at MoMA. These monthly – and sometimes weekly – family programs are typically crayon-crowded and brush-rushed affairs. But we found some really cool under-the-radar art workshops that will get you crazy about crafts again.

Sculpture Skyscraper Museum

The Skyscraper Museum
We live in one of the most vertical cities in the world, and here’s a place for your kids to explore what makes their hometown skyline so special: the skyscraper. Every Saturday morning from 10:30 am to 11:15 am, the Skyscraper Museum hosts a workshop where children learn about and make crafts dedicated to New York City buildings. The small classes, which cost only $5 per child, range from five to 15 kids. Some weeks the kids may fashion a hat that looks like the Chrysler building dome, while other times they may learn about elevator mechanics by creating their own pulley system.

And here’s a Zen koan to ponder: the Skyscraper Museum is on the first floor of a nondescript building down in Battery Park City. However, SOM, the architecture firm behind the Sears Tower, has masterfully created the illusion of soaring heights by using mirror-polished, stainless steel floors and ceilings.

What’s Next? When you leave the Skyscraper Museum, don’t forget to check out the Freedom Tower, just blocks to the north. Your kids will have a new appreciation for this latest addition to our skyline.

The Skyscraper Museum
39 Battery Place
New York, Ny
Phone: 212-945-6324
Family Program: Saturdays, 10:30 am -11:15 am
Cost: $5.00 per child
Ages: 3 – 13
Need to Know: It’s a bit of a walk from the subways, so bring a stroller if you have small kids.
Art Workshop Museum of Art and Design

Museum of Art and Design
We’re hesitant to tell you about the Museum of Art and Design’s family program because now everyone is going to go. Sunday Studio, which is held on the first Sunday of each month at 2:00 pm., is almost like attending a private art lesson – in a sunlit studio with stunning views of Columbus Circle.

Because of the typically small group size (we had three kids at our last visit), Sunday Studio is an easygoing, relaxed outing. There’s no jockeying for seats, no monopoly of markers, and no searching for scissors. The instructor can spend time with each child and gently show him or her how it’s done.

Like the exhibits at MAD (love the acronym), the workshop spotlights design and craft. A recent Sunday Studio, which costs $10 per family, focused on the museum’s exhibit “Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Art.” The instructor gave a short tour of the show and then encouraged the kids to experiment with shape as they made their own sculptures. The children used plastic (thankfully) knives to transform bars of soap into rings, boats and bas-relief faces.

What’s Next? If you and the kids build up an appetite after all the crafting, buy a late lunch at Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center (10 Columbus Circle) right next door. And then finish the day at Central Park with a quick water war at Heckscher Playground.

Museum of Art and Design
2 Columbus Circle
New York, Ny
Phone: 212-299-7777
Family Program: First Sunday of the month, 2:00 p.m.
Cost: $10.00 per family/adults pay an additional $16 for museum admission
Ages: 6 and up
Need to Know: The security guards are overly vigilant when kids get near the artwork.
Rubin Museum Sand Mandala 1

The Rubin Museum of Art
Feel like getting out of your Western art comfort zone? Then check out the Family Art Lab at the Rubin Museum of Art, which houses one of the premier collections of Himalayan art. On any second Saturday of the month, you’ll find 15 kids or so decorating Tibetan animal masks, creating sand mandalas or designing “gem-encrusted” crowns.

Just to give you an idea how dedicated the museum is to its education programs: two years ago, the museum opened the 5,000-square-foot Education Center just down the block from the main building. The vast, brightly-lighted space is equipped with sinks, sleek cabinets, large tables and a screen for PowerPoint lessons for the kids. (Dads will be happy to know that there are changing tables in the men’s room as well.)

Each Family Art Lab, which is recommended for children age 5 and older, begins with a short instruction and always focuses on an aspect of Himalayan art. Then it’s off to the museum for ideas and inspiration. Kids then return to the Education Center and let their imaginations go wild.

Got little kids? Check out the museum’s Yak Packers (how cute is that?), which is a program for children ages 2 to 4 and meets every Wednesday and Thursday from 10:30 am to 11:30 a,. The drop-in session includes an art workshop as well as a storytime and a gallery visit.

The Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17 Street
Education Center
132 West 17th Street
New York, Ny
Phone: 212-620-5000
Family Program: Second Saturday of the month, 2:00 p.m.
Cost: $16.00 for first adult/child pair; $16 for each additional child
Ages: 5 and up
Need to Know: The Education Center is located at a different address from the main museum (see above).
St. john divine art workshop

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
Travel back to the time of knights and princesses with the Medieval Arts Children’s Workshop at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Kids are given a tour of this 121-year-old Gothic cathedral, one of the largest in the world (it’s longer than two football fields and contains seven chapels). Children see with their own eyes the spooky gargoyles, intricate tapestries and majestic stained glass windows. Then it’s down to the dungeon (really just the basement) to the Medieval Workshop.

The workshop, which is recommended for kids ages 4 and older, gives children an opportunity to sample the arts from the Middle Ages. What did a stonemason do? Well, strap on some goggles, and get ready to whack a mallet against a chisel into a block of limestone. Like gargoyles? Here’s a ball of wet clay to shape and create your very own scary or silly monster.

If your kids prefer a more delicate art form, they can make illuminated letters. The children trace and transfer a medieval-style letter to paper and then decorate it with metallic pencils, replicating the gold-leafed illuminations found in medieval manuscripts. As well, the kids get a chance to work on a loom or make a “stained glass” collage.

The Medieval Arts Children’s Workshop, which costs only $6 per child, happens about once a month between October and June. The last sessions are coming up, so hurry!

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, Ny
Phone: 212-932-7347
Family Program: June 2, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm; June 16, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm.
Cost: $6.00 per child
Ages: 4 and up
Need to Know: Meet for registration at the Visitor Center inside the Cathedral entrance. The nearby Silver Moon Bakery (2740 Broadway) has reportedly the best scones on the Upper West Side.
What was the last art project you made with your kids?
–Alice Perry
(Photos courtesy of Skyscraper Museum, Museum of Art and Design, Rubin Museum of Art, Public Education and Visitor Services / Archives of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine)