Thursday, February 27, 2020

Family Friendly Art Adventures

In our family, we talk about doing things because it makes us more interesting people. I think being interesting ranks up there with being kind, being humble and being respectful when it comes to being a good friend, family member and community citizen.

Every outing we take is an opportunity to experience something that makes us more interesting. That’s equally true for both outdoor adventures and cultural excursions. Sometimes the latter can feel a little daunting, especially for families with young kids. But why not start with art? There is tons of art around town and plenty of family-friendly ways to experience it. Here are six fun options:

Stroller Tours
Levine Center for the Arts, which comprises Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and Mint Museum of Uptown, now offers free guided stroller tours at 10:30 a.m. the second Wednesday of each month through May.

This family-friendly, one-hour tour, which rotates museums each month, caters to the needs of small children. Need to peel off for a potty break? No big deal. Worried your toddler might get a little squirmy or noisy? To be expected. Not sure how to talk about the art in kid-friendly terms? Trained docents are equipped with age-appropriate discussion questions. They’ll also offer adult-friendly perspectives on the tour as well.

To take a stroller tour, register with the host museum in any given month, show up with an easily-maneuverable stroller, and check your angst at the door. This art outing was made for your whole family to enjoy.

Uptown Art Walking Tour
Charlotte's got loads of public art adorning parks, walls and corridors all over the city. And there’s an easy way to learn about some of the pieces that make Charlotte such a vibrant place to live. The Arts & Science Council's 45-minute Center City public art walking tour podcast guides visitors from one installation to the next, offering insight on both the art and the artist. The background information on the pieces includes helpful commentary on medium and the artist's inspiration.

Here’s how to take the public art walking tour.

Art Walk on the Rail Trail
There are dozens of bright, quirky and curious displays scattered along the Charlotte Rail Trail, the paved path that borders the Lynx light rail track from SouthEnd to Uptown.
Within a mile stretch of the Rail Trail, you can spot an 8-foot chicken, a giant yellow swing set, magic carpet sidewalk murals, an interactive chalkboard, an enormous seesaw, a bright red oversized exclamation point, a wire dinosaur, a parking-deck-sized comic strip, and a number of splashy wall murals.

The Rail Trail offers a good way for people of all ages to get outside, get moving (walk, ride, scoot or push a stroller), and see something new. And there are lots of food options when you want to take a break. 

Here’s how to take an Art Walk on the Rail Trail.

Mint Museum Uptown Family Room
One of our favorite places to spend a morning is the Lewis Family Gallery at The Mint Museum Uptown. One section of this space is stocked with art supplies and devoted entirely to personal creativity. It’s easy to spend hours making artwork – whether that’s coloring with crayons, doing origami, stringing beads, or constructing a multi-media project.

The family room, which is open during regular museum hours, also includes some educational exhibits, a small toddler foam building block pit, a couple of construction centers, a play kitchen, and plenty of space for other hands-on creative play.

And, the museum also offers curated activities, like ART Pack scavenger hunts, and programs, like Sunday Funday. Check event schedule and learn more about the Lewis Family Gallery at The Mint Museum Uptown.

Take a Mural Walk
These days, facades of buildings across town are adorned with funky, colorful, thought-provoking images. Some pieces are obvious, some more obscure, but all are worth a look. The Plaza Midwood neighborhood has a concentration of murals that make it easy to take a tour that will give you a taste of the eclectic neighborhood and the wall art that makes it so colorful.

Here’s how to take 10-stop mural walk in Plaza Midwood.

Purser Hulsey Park
Here’s a fun combination: Art and fresh air. That’s what you’ll at Purser-Hulsey Park in Matthews. About 15 miles from uptown, it's a relatively short, easy drive to get there. It boasts plentiful parking, a large community garden, a little free library and, most notably, some really fun trails.

But here’s why I recommend you make this your next local hiking destination: The 1.5 mile Painted Rock Trail loop is not only a pleasant, manageable hike for all ages, but it’s lined with clever painted rock trail markers.

Someone with notable artistic talent has painted at least a hundred rocks and placed them along the trail loop. All of them are beautiful, and some are especially witty. Visitors are encouraged to pick them up and leave them in a new spot along the trail as they hike (this is an especially effective motivator for young hikers!). And, park visitors are invited to bring their own painted rocks to add to the mix.

Here’s how to experience Purser-Hulsey Park.

So, go on. Commit to being more interesting. Art is a good place to start and opportunities to find it in Charlotte abound.

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