7. Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha
- Offers free colorful cards to help families locate and talk about 15 of Joslyn's "greatest hits;" most popular topic covered: Why are there naked people in art?
- Boasts an "educational hub" called the EdTech Gallery, where children can peruse art-themed books and CD-ROMs while lounging on colorful, comfy chairs and sofas
- Sponsors Theo's Roost Club, named after Joslyn's thunderbird mascot, Theo, for children who've visited the museum and engaged in five activities; members receive an invitation to have their artwork featured in the online gallery on Joslyn's Web site
Beyond the grand, imposing facade of the Joslyn Art Museum -- one of this country's finest examples of art deco architecture -- is a permanent installation far different in tone: an engaging, refreshingly easy-to-grasp exhibit for families called "Art Quest: Learning to Look." The exhibition consists of reproductions of 32 works in the museum's collection, along with tutorials on how to approach each piece. Part of the fun is a gallery hunt that guides visitors to the original works of art to test their new visual skills.
"We try to provide parents with the tools they need to help themselves and their kids," says Nancy Round, interim curator of education. "If you don't have an art background, a museum can be very intimidating. Art doesn't always speak for itself; we like to help it speak to you." A delightful example: The museum has nine themed Art Packs -- backpacks filled with information and child-friendly activities such as matching games and scavenger hunts -- families can borrow while they're touring the galleries.