On May 20, the High Museum of Atlanta will close its Greene Family Learning Gallery for renovations. The gallery will reopen in October and double in size.
In the past, the interactive family center has been filled with a number of activities designed to help children make connections with the works in the museum’s exhibits.
A recent puppet and stain-glass making activity coincided with the museum’s former exhibit on Ashley Bryan, a children’s book illustrator and painter.
A lot of research about how families use museums went into designing this new space, which is divided into two sections by a hallway, said Julia Forbes, the Shannon Landing Amos head of museum interpretation.
“We said, ‘Well, what we know is that families like to come a space like this because they like making memories together,’” she said. “That family-bonding moment is a really important piece of the puzzle for them.”
Designating one section for the older children and the other section for the younger children, would not allow families to stay together and make memories together, Forbes said. Instead, the two sections would be for all children aged 8 and below, and they would be called “CREATE” and “EXPERIENCE.”
The “CREATE” section is designed to feel like an artist’s studio, and the “EXPERIENCE” section will be an immersive gallery — like you are walking into a painting.
Forbes said the new Greene Family Learning Gallery would be accessible for families with mixed abilities. She said the High Museum consulted experts in the Atlanta community when they were making plans for the space.
One of those experts was Kimberly Thorpe, a program specialist at Metro RESA (Metropolitan Regional Educational Service Agency) and Metro West GRLS (Georgia Learning Resources System). Thorpe has worked in special education and social studies classrooms for 14 years, according to her bio.
“The reality is that in metro Atlanta, we have a lot of families who have kids who have mixed abilities who want to have an opportunity to do activities with their kids,” Thorpe said.
She said that the Greene Family Learning Gallery will give families that opportunity. More specifically, she said the space allows for motorized vehicle and wheelchair mobility and the variety of textures allows for the children with sensory deficits to engage with the space and not feel overwhelmed.
“I’m happy that it’s coming to fruition, but I’m also anxiously awaiting other institutions to get on board with making their space more diverse and inclusive,” Thorpe said.
Another one of the High Museum’s community advisers was Dr. Tamara Pearson, who is the associate director of School and Community Engagement at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC).
“I think (the High Museum) can reach a wider audience than what currently exists,” Pearson said. “I think it’s taking advantage of the fact that we’re now in the 21st century, and so it’s integrating the use of more of technology-driven interactive displays as opposed to just tactile interaction.”
The High Museum’s Forbes said a gizmo called the “Curiosity Cabinet” will be installed in the “CREATE” room. The station will allow kids to make something — a drawing, composition, etc. Whatever they make will appear in the “EXPERIENCE” room for others to see.
“The way that color mixes with light is the same way that color mixes on a computer screen, which is very different than how color mixes when you’re painting a painting,” Pearson said.
“I think that art is a really important component in education, and with this focus on STEM, it’s important that we transition from STEM to STEAM and making sure the arts have a front-and-center seat in that,” she said.
New works of art are being installed in the High Museum’s collections as well. The Sent Family Wing, the High Café and the Greene Family Learning Center will all close on May 20, according to a press release.
The new galleries should debut in October this year.