The weekends of my twenties and early thirties were busy. There were options then: bike rides, new restaurants, thrift stores and street festivals. But these days, with a two-year-old as my constant entourage, I have nothing but time.
Here’s one way to fill all that time: go to the MCA Family Day. Once a month, art-loving parents get to feel welcome in a museum again, thanks to thoughtful art and design programming. On Saturdays, the Museum of Contemporary Art embraces the chaos of childhood, with every floor activated by working artists. In January, Chicago artist James Jankowiak invited kids of all ages to use colored tape to create masterpieces on museum windows and floors.
Brilliant! Kids love nothing better than destroying surfaces with sticky things. For parents who, like me, rarely get the pleasure of watching our kids creatively destroy someone else’s place, it makes for a satisfying sight. I was mesmerized watching colors and kids framed by the large second-floor gallery windows of Josef Paul Kleihues’ imposing building. You don’t have to pay big bucks to have your little Rauschenberg work with an acclaimed local artist. The museum’s Women’s Board Family Education Initiative sponsors the programs. Thank you, Women, whoever you are.
Activities appeal to the toddlers that make up the bulk of attendees, but are easily scaled up in sophistication to entertain older kids. And for this mom, an afternoon at the MCA makes me feel like a bona fide cultural consumer again. Experiencing a museum without worrying about my larger-than-life two-year-old talking too loudly, or skipping through the gallery is a treat! There are limits: when my kid used her white tights to skate on the gallery’s black marble floors, a security guard promptly discouraged her.
Add another small joy to a kid-friendly outing. Have lunch in Puck’s Café, where a roomful of well-behaved tots dine graciously in the sundrenched space with their guardians. It might be the peer pressure keeping them seated, or perhaps they are in awe of contemporary art. Regardless, the relaxed atmosphere will build your confidence about dining out in restaurants that don’t supply crayons. While munching on a Mediterranean flatbread during our last visit, my lunch companion gave a rare endorsement: “This was a good plan, Mommy!” By next morning, she was ready to return to the “Moooseum.” (Krisann Rehbein)
Saturday, February 8, 11am-3pm at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 220 East Chicago, (312)280-2660. mcachicago.org