You might not think your 6-month-old or 6-year-old are ready to explore their passion for art, but the Portland Art Museum disagrees. With a small manageable size, great rotating exhibits (catch the Andy Warhol one before it leaves in January!), and a variety of ways to experience the pieces, a fantastic afternoon art experience is possible for both the big and little art lovers in your family! The staff at the art museum knows that keeping a child occupied and quiet in a hush-hush museum is almost impossible, so they’ve created Family Tours that guarantee fun for everyone. Read on to find out more.

photo: Mike Krzeszak via Flickr

Family Tours
The tours are geared towards fidgety ones and their caregivers: anyone under 17 is free! Join a family-friendly docent tour every Sunday at 12:30pm. Each hour-long tour ranges across the whole museum and include rotating and permanent exhibitions. They’re themed for the younger crowd with topics like “Colorific,” “Animals in Art” or “Art Across Cultures.” The tours are free with admission, just show up in the lobby to join.

Baby Tours
It’s an extra challenge to get anywhere with a baby under one. For parents of the very young the museum offers Baby Mornings on the first Thursday of every month at 10am. The informal group meets in the Andrée Stevens Room, complete with tea, blankets, games and toys for your baby. The tours are also themed, and provide a time for some adult conversation as well as helping baby enjoy their first artworks.

And they get it—you aim to be there at 10, but by the time you get out the door it’s more like 10:30. The tour will wait until they get a big enough group to go, and they also offer a second tour around 11:15 (or when another group is ready). Enjoy the museum with your baby, stress-free.

photo: Parker Knight via Flickr

How to Talk to Your Kids About Art
Talking to kids about a difficult topic can be a huge challenge. The Portland Art Museum’s goal is to create a space for dialogue, reflection, and coming together, and their Family Tours reflect that. When you see the artwork, ask your kids what they think. What do they see? What do they think about it? The Corita Kent: Spiritual Pop exhibit (running through Jan 2017) is a great example of tough topics. Kent was a nun, teacher, and activist in LA in the 60’s, known for her vibrant revolutionary screen-prints. Look for her messages of peace and hope among the billboard-style bright colors.

The museum has created a guide to facilitate hard conversations here, along with links to more resources.

Current exhibits
Cranes, Dragons, and Teddy Bears: Kids will love the small, beautiful children’s clothing from Japan, currently on display. Some kimonos show off detailed dyeing techniques, while others have hand-painted novelty figures on them. Challenge your little ones to find the teddy bears and dragons! On display until March 26, 2017.

Restoring the Breath—Sacred Relationship: Beautiful Salish coast weavings are on display until February in the Center for Contemporary Native Art gallery. The gallery features four accomplished artists with examples of their weavings, and honors their combined teacher and the sacred relationship to their work. Salish history and culture is brought to life in these intricate blankets!

Don’t miss the ongoing but always changing Object Stories, an exhibit where people bring in objects and record a story telling why they are meaningful. Browse through the past recorded stories, or encourage your kids to tell their own story! This is a great conversation-sparker on what makes items special. Check out the current highlighted Stories until Jan 30 on Sound Beyond the Auditory. The objects displayed are experiments in making sound visible and tactile, important explorations for the deaf and hard of hearing communities.

photo: Cliff Williams via Flickr

Getting hungry
It’s best to enjoy art with a happy belly (that’s true for kids or adults!), so fill up at the Museum Cafe onsite. Coffee drinks, bagels, breakfast, snack and lunch options are all available. Other nearby options include Elephant’s Deli in Director’s Park, and the 11th and Alder food cart pod!

The Details
The museum is located downtown in the Park Blocks. While there is no dedicated parking garage, there are some nearby ones as well as street parking. Public transportation is plentiful with several bus lines running nearby, as well as a MAX stop a few blocks away.

Bags and large backpacks must be checked upon entry, so pare down to the essentials. Strollers are allowed inside, but littler ones might do even better in a carrier (and you’ll get a break from navigating!).

Tickets are $19.99 for adults, with discounts for seniors and students. Members are free. Tip: buy online to avoid the wait when you arrive!

Portland Art Museum
1219 Southwest Park Avenue
Portland, Oregon

What’s your favorite art museum experience? Tell us in the comments below!

—Katrina Emery

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