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Family Art Studio: Erica Melnykowycz

Erica Melnykowycz, an instructional assistant at Honey Creek Community School, and her wife and family live on the west side of Ann Arbor.  

Erica Melnykowycz's family at Family Art Studio.What was your first Family Art Studio experience, and how did it go? 

Our first experience was making African masks last April. We loved it! My younger daughter is interested in all things African and enjoys a good art project. I brought my older daughter along as well, who never turns down an opportunity to create art. We were blown away!

What we got at UMMA was a top quality art class. The docent-led tour was wonderful and really got my girls and I thinking about the African art in ways we would not have had we visited on our own. We were asked to sketch patterns we saw while we listened to the docent which was perfect for my older daughter who has special needs and has a fairly short attention span. 

What are your children's favorite part of the art studio? What's yours?

Collin (age 13) - The opportunity to just make art, something he doesn't get to do as much as when he was younger.

Cayla (age 13) - Any Saturday spent making art is a good Saturday for her. The balance between guidlines of what project we are working on and the freedom be creative is done so well at these workshops.

Heaven (age 7) - Meeting actual artists, talking the docent's ear off, and interacting with any other adult or person will engage with her. Art is a social activity for Heaven.

Emanuel (age 6) - Emanuel spends about 99% of his day playing with toys (Legos, animal figures, knights, etc.) and very little time with a pencil, crayon, or clay in his hand. In preschool, we were presented with an empty art folder – not one piece of art all year. He has done two Family Art Studios and worked hard both times at creating his art. He now actively plays with both pieces he created (a wooden animal box and a night print) seamlessly incorporating his art and Legos. He has very little interest in the Museum tour, and I think his favorite part may be drawing on the huge expanse of brown paper covering the tables!

I love the intersection of looking at art in a museum and then creating my own piece. For most of us, viewing art in a museum and creating our own art. It very exciting to actually make art in a museum and get inspiration from "real" art.

What value does your family get out of UMMA programming like Family Art Studio? 

It builds the value of art into our kids – not just creation of art, but instilling the value that art is important and impactful. This is probably the only time our family has all sat down to create together, and it works well for all ages. We always leave happy and invigorated.

Would you recommend Family Art Studio to other families?

Yes! I highly recommend your program to all. The docent tour is excellent. I actually find it refreshing to only focus on one small part of the museum. The interactions with actual artists is very exciting for my kids. The materials are top notch and plentiful. Two hours is a good time frame. Long enough to create, not too long for boredom to set in. 

I've done three programs now and all of them had a great balance of direction and freedom. Too much of either is not a good thing. Especially for those who do not create a lot of art, it's nice to have a simple framework of what to do. However, the freedom to color, paste, string on rafia, and add in plastic animals allowed everyone's creativity to flourish. And, best of all, it's free! 

Our family has done many programs, classes, workshops, and activities around Ann Arbor and yours is top notch – one of Ann Arbor's best kept secrets.