5. Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
- Hosts weekend drop-in programs in the galleries for kids ages 4 and up that often include a treasure hunt and an art-making activity
- Offers hourlong Preschool Playdates for toddlers; a child and a parent hear nursery rhymes, watch finger plays, and make art in the galleries
- Boasts many family conveniences, including free strollers to borrow, quick-service restaurants with kid-friendly fare, and a Brown Bag Lunchroom with a microwave
Art Cat is the mascot of family programming at the Carnegie Museum of Art, and his feline curiosity and irrepressible spirit are evident at the museum, especially on his popular audio tour. "We're all about fun here -- an investigative, curious kind of fun," says Marilyn Russell, curator of education. "We give contextual information, but we don't feel that, for instance, learning the definition of baroque is what's meaningful to most people," she says. "There needs to be a reason for looking at artwork that was made a long time ago other than someone says you should look at it. It has to have meaning for a contemporary viewer -- especially if that viewer is a child."
Russell's staff and the installations that they produce encourage kids to talk about what they see as opposed to the artwork itself. "We have a painting by Alfred Bierstadt of seals in the water, and we talk about what the animals might be doing," she says. "We get kids to imagine they're in the painting and what that experience might be like. We like creative, open-ended thinking. We encourage kids to find their own reasons for being drawn to art."