For each new exhibition that goes on display at the Florence Griswold Museum, a new batch of “Can You Find Me?” cards becomes available in the gallery.
Each card includes part of a picture on display. They sometimes have a literary component, such as a poem describing a piece of art. As visitors move through the gallery, they match the cards to the paintings, sculptures, and other pieces in the exhibition.
Tammi Flynn, director of marketing at the Florence Griswold Museum, says the cards are popular with both children and adults. They offer a way to both get children interested in the exhibition and prompt discussion on the artwork.
“It’s very helpful for families,” says Flynn. “Parents shouldn’t feel that they have to be art experts to have a great visit with their families. We can help encourage conversation.”
A similar challenge greets visitors at the historic Florence Griswold mansion, which “Miss Florence” opened to boarders in the late 19th century. When the house proved to be a popular retreat for impressionist artists, it became the centerpiece of the Lyme Art Colony. Families learning about this history can ask for a scavenger hunt sheet to pick out certain items around the home. They can then turn the completed sheet in at the front desk for a small prize.
“I like it when you see the kids really excited, especially when you see them running back down to the gallery to get their prize,” says Flynn. “To see that engagement with the historic house and the stories is rewarding.”
The Florence Griswold Museum has always sought to be a venue for fun, affordable, and educational family outings. Children ages 12 and younger are always admitted for free, and several interactive programs take place throughout the year.
Families who are visiting for the first time can visit the museum’s website ahead of time. This will let them know about any ongoing programs as well as special events. It
also includes several resources for parents to interest children in the exhibits.
One activity is named “What Why Wow!” This worksheet, available on the website, includes several questions that encourage a visual exploration of a painting’s mood, location, and other topics. The “Wow!” section asks viewers to identify part of the painting that they consider particularly special and moving.
“Sometimes you just need a prompt,” says Flynn. “The rest comes naturally. People are curious, and want to let their thoughts and creativity out. It doesn’t take much to get kids going. And we want to be able to help with that.”
Parents can also introduce children to the “Wiggle Game,” a favorite among artists at the Lyme Art Colony. One person draws a few lines on a blank piece of paper before passing it on to a second person, who finishes the drawing with a different colored pencil or pen. This exercise always encourages a great deal of creativity, and several examples from the artists are available on the website.
Weekends at the Florence Griswold Museum usually include a number of family-oriented activities. As part of its opening weekend at the beginning of April, the museum brought back the Art Cart. Based on a historic portable studio used by artists at the Lyme Art Colony, the Art Cart is available until the beginning of winter. It includes several kinds of Explorer Kits with activities to do around the museum grounds. One of the most popular activities last year involved finding different leaves and taking rubbings of them.
“People are really enjoying them,” Flynn says of the Explorer Kits. “They’re doing exactly what we wanted them to do: they’re exploring the property.”
On Sundays, admission includes a set of art supplies. Visitors are encouraged to find a striking scene and paint it. They can then keep the painting as a memory of their visit to the museum.
During the summer, Art Colony day camps allow children to get a sense of how the artists at the Lyme Art Colony lived. The five-day camp includes time dedicated to both artistic activities and play, and it culminates with an exhibition of the campers’ work. The Art Colony Camp is open to grades one through six, and a separate camp is also available for middle school students.
The museum also offers homeschooling and after-school art programs. In October, more than 30 fairy houses appear around the property as part of the museum’s Wee Faerie Village.
There are several different features of the Florence Griswold Museum which hold appeal for visiting families. They might be wowed by the Chadwick Studio; a historic working space with easels and paints still in place, it looks like the artist simply stepped out for a quick break. The landscape center also proves interesting, with working gardens and displays on local ecology showcasing the natural beauty that inspired artists for many years.
Families are always interested in the historic house. Walking through it, they can picture Miss Florence’s cats wandering through the rooms or the artists painting impromptu scenes on the walls and door panels.
“Visitors get a sense of the people who lived here,” says Flynn. “The story becomes more real.”
The staff at the museum aims to make visitors comfortable during their visit. Visitors are asked to abide by a set of basic manners, such as not touching the paintings or historic items, but curiosity is always encouraged.
“Miss Florence was very welcoming, and we want to be the same way,” says Flynn.
For more information about the Florence Griswold Museum and its family programs, visit florencegriswoldmuseum.org or call 860-434-5542.