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Take the Kids: NC Museum of Art offers lounge for families to take a break, get creative

Posted January 9, 2020 8:44 p.m. EST

Courtesy: NC Museum of Art

The space behind the stairs on the C Level of the NC Museum of Art's East Building was a bit underused. Dark and dreary, it served mostly as a meetup area before programs. But in recent months, the art museum has updated the space, turning it into a brightly painted Family Lounge, intended for all ages, but especially those of us with kids.

The Family Lounge opened in October, along with the museum's incredibly popular Frida Kahlo exhibit, which closes after an extended run on Jan. 26. The exhibit, said Courtney Klemens, manager of the museum's family programs, has drawn lots of first-time visitors to the museum. "We've been thinking much more about welcoming spaces for our visitors," she tells me.

The Family Lounge features several hands-on creative activities at three tables. One offers up magnet boards where visitors are encouraged to make their own version of some of the art in the museum's permanent collection. Another table has coloring sheets that highlight other works in the museum. And a third is filled with Brain Flakes, small plastic disks that you can build with. Laminated pictures of sculptures at the museum provide some inspiration.

Family Lounge at the NC Museum of Art

"It's really about being creative and flexing that creativity muscle," Klemens said of the activities.

A hit with little ones is the light art and movement area right next to the tables. Moving images of colors and shapes are projected on the floor, which kids can jump between or trace.

Finally, there's a long bookshelf with circular cutouts designed for kids (and adults - I fit!) to hang out in and read one of the picture books on display. The curated book collection feature stories about artists whose work appears inside the museum.

Family Lounge at the NC Museum of Art

For parents who are ready to take a seat, there are comfy chairs and other seating areas to relax. Klemens said the lounge will shift and change over time, offering up new activities that focus on other pieces in the museum's permanent collection or on a special exhibit.

The lounge also sits right next to the East Building's cafe. And, yes, you can bring in food and drink into the lounge to enjoy as the kids play, Klemens said. There also are restrooms in the cafe.

The Family Lounge is the latest hands-on area to open up in the museum. Also in the East Building is the museum's Threads of Experience gallery where visitors can learn more about African art and weave on a giant loom. And, of course, there are lots of opportunities to play outside in the museum's sprawling park.

Klemens said that visitors should be on the lookout for more spaces like this at the museum going forward. An Ancient Art Lounge, which will open soon, also will offer more interactive experiences. Valerie Hillings, the museum's new director, is especially eager to build more reasons for families to visit the museum, Klemens said.

"This is the start of a big project of rethinking ... how families feel welcome in our spaces," Klemens said.

The lounge is a perfect place to hang out during a visit to the museum or before and after one of its great family programs, which include storytimes and What's in the Box programs for young children and free weekend family tours. The museum's family events page has more information about all of the programs there. Admission to the museum is free. Some programs require a small fee.

Go Ask Mom’s Take the Kids series is your No. 1 resource for weekly ideas about kid-focused places to take your family in the Triangle and beyond. New articles are published every Friday.