WILLIAMSTOWN -- Art Museums tend to be quiet places, but the sounds of group singing, children laughing and exclaiming "Wow" will fill the air at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute on Family Day, Saturday, Nov. 17 from noon to 5 p.m.
Family Day celebrates the opening of two new exhibitions - "Lions and Tigers and Museums, Oh My!," a Kidspace exhibition and "Giselle’s Remix," an uCurate exhibition.
"We are excited at the Museum to be presenting our first Kidspace exhibition," said Ronna Tulgan Ostheimer, head of education programs who together with colleagues curated the exhibition. "But we have always been involved with Kidspace."
Basically an arts education program, Kidspace is a collaboration among the Clark, Williams College Museum of Art and Mass MoCA.
Ever since Kidspace was founded in 1999, Mass MoCA has presented Kidspace exhibition, while the Clark and WCMA offer gallery talks that complement MASS MoCA’s Kidspace exhibitions.
"Regularly the educators for the three institutions talk about Kidspace themes," said Tulgan Ostheimer. "Our goal in determining a theme is to have something open ended so that each museum can present it in a way that is compatible with the philosophy of that particular museum."
As of Nov. 17, for the first time, the Clark, WCMA and MASS MoCA will be presenting Kidspace exhibitions concurrently.
"It made sense for us (the Clark) to build the show around Peter Paul Reubens’s magnificent painting ‘Lion and Tiger Hunting.’ Standing in front of that close to eight-and-a-half by 10-inch canvass you are spellbound," said Tulgan Ostheimer. "We hoped to get the original painting for the exhibition."
The painting is in the collection of Muse’e de-Beaux Arts in Rennes, France, and that museum and the Clark are partners in the French Regional Art Museums and American Art Museums Exchange.
As it turned out, the Clark did not obtain the painting, so a reproduction will be used.
"It works for us because one of the focuses of the exhibition is museums, and the reproduction allows us to talk not only about the Clark but the Muse’e de Beaux Arts and museums in general as well," said Tulgan Ostheimer. "We are looking at the picture as a work of art that inspires a lot of curiosity, and also looking at museums as being charged with inspiring and satisfying curiosity."
Choosing a work of art for an exhibition is great responsibility.
"There seems to be a cultural sensitivity to what is seen in some works of art. But there are no themes in ‘Lion and Tiger Hunting’ that children haven’t dealt with in Disney or other activities," Tulgan Ostheimer said, adding that one of the wonderful things about looking at art with our children is that it offers an opportunity to have a purposeful and meaningful conversation about real issues that may be difficult to talk about.
Clark’s Exhibition Design Manager Rebecca Young started working on the "Lions and Tigers and Museums, Oh My!" exhibition in late August. "My design was in response to what their (education department and curatorial department) goal is," she said. There are four sections in the exhibition, which allow visitors to experience different types of museums: art museum, science museum, natural history museum and living history museum.
On Family Day, admittance to the museum and activities are free of charge.
From noon to 4 p.m. activities include games and puzzles, and art-making projects: lion-faced fleece pillows, safari magnets, hidden animal collages and jungle tattoos.
At 12:30 and 2:30 p.m., youngsters who love the little kitty they have at home, may be surprised by what they learn as they listen to "All About Big Cats!" - an educational presentation by Teralyn LaChance, assistant education director of The Zoo in Forest Park in Springfield.
Some children may need to persuade their parents to sing along at the Lion Tales Show, an audience participation performance by Tales ‘n Tunes. a musical storytelling duo, held at 1, 2 and 3 p.m.
"The Mystery of Cougars in New England" a talk by Robert Tougias, author and member of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation, held at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., could lead to examining stories about Mountain Lions roaming the Berkshires. Would Tougias debunk the stories as figments of the imagination or would he have reason to believe that such animals really exist in the Berkshires?
At 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m., Falconry Master Chris Davis, will tell stories and share information he has gleaned over the years on the ancient art of falconry.
"I had an early interest in falconry and my parents supported it," Davis, said. "Falconry is 4,000 years old. It was a way for poor people to get food and for the rich it was a sport. In the feudal system, only certain classes could own raptors."
Perches, gloves, tracking devices that can be attached to birds’ legs are among the equipment Davis will use during a demonstration he will give at the Clark. And he will bring his Harris Hawks.
"I will free fly a bird. Anything can happen," he said.
Within the time visitors are participating in the activities, hunger could strike. No problem. Hot dogs, hot and cold cider are available for purchase.
And at a complimentary reception saluting the opening of Giselle’s Remix, light refreshments will be served from 4:30 to 5 p.m. The reception will follow a discussion with 11-year-old Giselle Ciulla, hosted by the leaders of the Clark’s curatorial team, Richard Rand and Kathy Morris.
"Giselle’s Remix" is the first exhibition created through the Clark’s uCurate. Accessible through touch screens and computer kiosks in the galleries, uCurate invites users to choose from more than 250 works featured in Clark Remix to create their own virtual exhibitions in a 3-D version of one of the Clark’s special exhibition galleries.
The Clark team that selected Ciulla’s Remix exhibition from 1,000 submissions were impressed with the ways in which her unique perspective evokes feelings and emotions that belie her youth.
Ciulla lives in suburban New York, but she has been visiting the Clark since she was very young. It was while visiting the Clark with her grandparents, who have a home in the Berkshires, that the fifth-grader created her uCurate exhibition earlier this year.
"Giselle’s Remix" will be on view at the Clark’s Manton Research Center from Nov. 17 through Jan. 20, 2013. "Lions and Tigers and Museums, Oh My!" will be on view at the Clark’s Stone Hill Center from Nov. 17 through March 31, 2013.
The Clark is located at 225 South St., Williamstown. For more info: clarkart.edu.