MWPAI Art Alive! program blends art, science

UTICA — Of all the things that Art Alive! Family Day at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute promoted, couch-lying and screen-watching were not included.

Instead, creative applications of technology and art history, along with a visit from local celebrities, powered the quarterly event held Thursday.

“It’s trying to get people throughout the museum and making connections to the things in the galleries,” said April Oswald, museum education director. “It’s different from what you’re going to find anywhere else at a family day.”

Art Alive! is an opportunity for parents and guardians to keep their children engaged over the winter school break. Each of the events is hosted during school breaks and, besides providing activities, allows children dynamic outlets for their energy.

Children could navigate simple robotic cars with cell phones and video game controllers at one area of the museum. In another, artists-in-residence helped children make crafts — like lanterns and origami fortune cookies — themed around a current exhibit.

Two performances by entertainer David Gonzales and an expected visit by the Utica City Football Club rounded out the day.

“That is something different than you’ll find anywhere else … (the artists-in-residence) are actual working artists,” Oswald said. “It’s, I think, a wonderful connection for everyone.”

The activities were mostly hands-on, including the robotics exhibit, which was aided and explained by professionals from local robotics teams.

“They do this because they want to get other kids inspired,” said Kate Alcott, associate director of the Northeast Advanced Technological Education Center at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. “They want to get these little ones excited about science and technology and engineering.”

Linda Kokoszki, the grandmother of three girls involved in the day, said she is always impressed with the activities the museum hosts. The entertainment always keeps the children engaged, she said, and, besides, it’s a way for her grandkids to interact with something other than TV or technology.

“It’s easy to sit them in front of all of the kids’ programs and become mindless at home,” Kokoszki said, “but I think this gives them a little bit of culture and helps them expand their skills and just helps them think outside the box a bit and see what else is out there.”

Contact reporter Joseph Labernik at 315-792-4995 or follow him on Twitter (@OD_Labernik).