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Introducing Children to the Arts

IntroducingChildrenToTheArts_Indy's Child MagazineThis article appears in our March 2016 issue of Indy’s Child Parenting Magazine. Flip through it here or pick up a copy today at your local Marsh or Kroger store, YMCA, public library or community center.


Countless research studies have concluded that exposing young children to the arts improves everything from academic performance to self-esteem. The bottom line is clear: the arts play an essential role in a child’s development. Fortunately, Indianapolis is bursting with fun and easy ways for kids to get excited about all the arts can offer.

Visit a museum

“Attending a museum or gallery is a rich cultural experience that can spark imagination in your child, engage their natural curiosity and help them develop a life-long love of art,” says Michelle Winkelman, Director of Education and Outreach for the Indianapolis Art Center.

While a trip to a museum with little ones may seem daunting, Winkleman points out that museum etiquette is pretty simple: “Don’t touch the art (unless you are specifically invited to do so – some art is interactive); be aware of your body in the space so that you don’t accidentally bump into something; and, if you take photos, don’t use flash. Most important, though: be curious!” Exhibits at the Indianapolis Art Center are free and rotate every six weeks, and the galleries are open well into the evening making it easy to plan a visit.

At The Indianapolis Museum of Art, ask for a “search & find” to transform your stroll through the galleries into an art-themed scavenger hunt, take a family museum tour or get creative at the Star Studio. Family Day, held the first Saturday of each month, offers themed programming geared to children, like the upcoming SMASH, BOOM, POW: Animations & Comics Day. Be sure to browse the “Plan Your Family Visit” section of the IMA website for helpful tips on navigating the museum with children.

Take a trip to the American West at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. There, kids can learn the story of Wasgo the Sea Monster as told by a towering totem pole, climb aboard an authentic stagecoach and get their hands on everything from polar bear fur to a replica Remington bronze statue.

Go on an art adventure

Art isn’t always contained within four walls. Head to downtown Indy to view vibrant murals on the canal underpasses and sculpture dotted along the Washington Street Bridge and throughout the green spaces of White River State Park. Stroll the 92-county walk located along the perimeter of the Indiana State Museum to see 3-D works of art that highlight each county in the state.

ArtsPark at the Indianapolis Art Center and The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres at the IMA both offer ample space for kids to run free while viewing unique art installations.

Nearly $4 million of original artwork is on display at Indianapolis International Airport. No ticket? No worries! Several works of art can be viewed before the security checkpoint.

Visit the Arts Council of Indianapolis Public Art Directory to find information on the art on view at the above locations, as well as many other areas throughout the city.

Attend a performance

From the ballet to the theater to the symphony – there are so many opportunities to see art in action in the Indianapolis area.

The Center for the Performing Arts welcomes ages 4 and up to all of their Center Presents performances, but they also offer programming geared to younger children. The Center’s Peanut Butter & Jam Series, designed for ages 1-7, offers the perfect performing arts primer. “Artists in this series are selected for their ability to perform for family audiences; however, the content of the shows is not necessarily children’s music,” says Community Engagement Manager Julia Shildmyer-Heighway.

Twice a year, Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre presents one-hour productions that focus on its youngest audience members. “Most parents realize that young children (under age 5) tend to get restless during longer productions. That’s where our Live Theatre for Kids program comes in,” saysPatricia Rettig, Director of Marketing & Media Relations. Children receive a juice box and snack prior to the show and audience interaction helps keep children engaged in what’s happening on stage. Kids can try out a longer production at the annual Family Show, presented each year as school is letting out.

Think the symphony is just for grown-ups? Think again. The Carmel Symphony Orchestra welcomes children of all ages to their performances, and the YouthPASS program allows high school students and younger to attend any performance in the Palladium for just $5 in select seating areas.

What better way to inspire a love of the arts in a child, than to attend a performance by their peers. The Indianapolis Children’s Choir  has a number of upcoming concerts that showcase young voices from throughout the greater Indianapolis area.

Find these programs and many more on the Arts Council of Indianapolis Indy Arts Guide, which categorizes the arts by discipline and lists programs intentionally designed for kids and families.

Take a class

 RELATED ARTICLE: How to Begin Music Lessons with your Child


Perhaps the best way to gain an appreciation of the arts is to create it – whether in an acting workshop, music lessons, a drawing class or a drop-in arts program at the public library. Visit our Enrichment and After-School Programs Directory to explore local classes that allow young children to explore a variety of disciplines.

Whether in a museum or theater, concert hall or classroom, introducing children to the arts opens their minds to endless possibilities. As Winkelman says, “The arts help youth develop their voice and identity, connect with the world around them and empower their innate capacity for original creation and innovation.”

What could be more beautiful than that?

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