We are excited to share the SAAM Family Zone for your consideration, a new web offering that includes a serially released mix of real-time and recorded performances, music, craft activities, arts classes, and other opportunities for the intergenerational appreciation and enjoyment of American art, created by the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s (SAAM) public programs team. Prior to the pandemic, SAAM hosted a regular series of free, in-person, themed family programs in our museum building in downtown Washington, DC, serving audiences of 8,000-10,000 people each day. Typically lasting a full day, these signature family days included performances, crafts, coloring pages, and activities inside the museum. They introduced some of our youngest audiences and their families to the variety of art showcased in our museum, and connected them with various diverse cultural communities in and around Washington, DC.
When the doors of the museum closed in March 2020, the public programs team looked intently for new ways to keep connected to our existing family audiences and to provide meaningful cultural and artistic activities for children and caregivers in a safe and socially distant way—and the SAAM Family Zone was born. Museum staff and leadership and our audiences report that they are pleased with the result. Family Zone pages on SAAM’s website have gotten 33,400 pageviews to date, and the video programs have been watched thousands of times. Visitors to the pages and related family programs have commented that they think the programs are “wonderful” and thank us for “bringing the museum into [their] homes.”
Like the in-person family program series which inspired it, our Family Zone offers opportunities for the intergenerational appreciation and enjoyment of American art, which is so central to SAAM’s mission. We were also able continue our regular support and institutional connection to performing artists and organizations during the pandemic through hiring them or licensing their work, and to successfully maintain museum relationships with partner organizations, media sponsors, and donors. Our in-person family programs were based on monthly themes, and this has carried to our online Family Zone, with each group of activities featuring the same themes that we would have featured in the museum. The thematic pages, listed below, feature a variety of craft activities (tested by our staff and interns to ensure success at all ages and skill levels), downloadable coloring pages based on artworks in the museum’s collection, and kid-friendly performances from a variety of community partners.
The SAAM Family Zone represents the best of museum program planning flexibility and ingenuity in the face of pandemic restrictions, being based in the work of existing staff and working with extremely low budgets (in the hundreds of dollars). It represents one of the many exciting ways that museums can be of service to family audiences and continue to meet our missions through pivoting to a digital-first focus.
- SAAM Family Zone landing page
- Pride Family Zone
- Launched June 2020 for National LGBTQ+ Pride Month
- Gardens Family Zone
- Launched July 2020 to celebrate bringing nature into everyday life
- SAAM Arcade
- Launched August 2020 to explore gaming as a medium for expanding the way Americans tell and experience stories stories
- Día de los Muertos Family Zone
- Launched in October 2020 in honor of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, in order to celebrate Latin American and Mexican American communities in the United States
- The Nutcracker Family Zone
- Launched in December 2020 in partnership with The Washington Ballet to bring festive holiday activities into the home and offer children the chance to take a free online ballet class from a professional dancer
- Lunar New Year Family Zone
- Launched in February 2021 to celebrate the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar in partnership with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America
- Cherry Blossom Family Zone
- Launched in March 2021 to celebrate spring and the return of cherry blossom season and its connection to Japanese culture