A Home for Dragons and Aspiring Artists

Written by Meghan Gattignolo, Visitor Services Coordinator

For us Museum employees, tidying up Explorers’ Landing and the Family Art Studio after a busy day can be a less-than-fun experience. So, when we happen upon imaginative creations like this Fierce Dragon left behind by our favorite Museum guests, it really brightens up our evening.

Thanks to the gracious sponsorship of the Kiwanis Club of Clarksville, the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center opened the new and improved Family Art Studio to the public on June 9, 2018. It was a project developed with great earnest and zeal by previous Executive Director Jim Zimmer and our Curator of Education, Sue Lewis. I was still fairly new to working at the Museum, so it was exciting to have a front-row seat to the improvements of an institution I have loved for a long time.

The Family Art Studio existed before, but the room needed a lot of love. Jim Zimmer used his background of art and design and worked closely with Sue Lewis to pick colors and decide the layout of the room. The design is also a testament to Sue Lewis’ education philosophy. Sue is an advocate for play as an approach to learning; letting a child’s imagination and natural curiosity lead the way. The Family Art Studio offers ample opportunity for parents and children—or anyone, really—to play and learn, with a focus on the elements of art: line, shape, color and texture. Museum guests can enjoy not only a massive LEGO® Wall but also a Geo Board, a Light Table with translucent shapes, a Magnet Board, a Selfie Portrait Station and several crafting tables. 

A feature in the Family Art Studio I adore, beside the 12-foot LEGO® Wall, is the multiple locations that Museum guests can display their artwork. A viewing station right inside the door provides guests with fun ways to make their own personal artwork part of the Museum, even if only for a short time. My evening trip to shut off lights around the Museum became an anticipated joy as I began to notice with increasing frequency some very creative projects left behind during the day. Eventually, I started taking a camera with me to take photos of my favorites. I felt the need to record these images, though initially, I had no idea what I would do with them. Over two and a half years, I’ve collected quite a digital library.

I have to admit, though, I am still partial to that LEGO® Wall. So next time you visit the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center and see the LEGO® Wall looking like this: 

Please don’t disappoint us. Leave something totally awesome behind for us to enjoy!

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