By Maeve Dolan ’17

The story began with a song. “If you’re happy to be at the museum, clap your hands!” sang Clare Murray ’18, and the dozen or so children gathered around her, in the lobby of the Colby College Museum of Art, clapped along.

 

Children gathered around Clare Murray '18 in the lobby of the Colby College Museum

Clare Murray ’18 leads children in the Art + Storytelling program at the Colby Museum

 

Murray, the museum’s education intern, was about to guide the group of children and their parents on a special hour-long tour through the galleries to look at art involving that week’s educational theme—snow. But before they set off, Murray asked her guests, most younger than five, what kinds of things people like to do in the snow. “Build snowmen!” one shouted. After a review of museum rules—“walking feet!”—Murray and the children began their journey into the galleries, putting on their imaginary binoculars by raising cupped hands to their eyes to observe a multimedia work of a cross-country skier.

A double major in economics and Latin American studies, Murray began developing the Art + Storytelling program last spring, oriented to address “the growing need for the Colby and Waterville communities to have a family-oriented program in a museum setting,” she said.

Along with Margaret Aiken, Linde Family Foundation Coordinator of School and Teacher Programs, Murray had the opportunity to study for two days at the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center in Washington to learn more about engaging children in play and to help refine the program she was developing. When the museum launched Murray’s program, four children attended regularly; now, the bi-weekly program serves 15 kids and their 21 adults. “My favorite part is curating positive and engaging early exposures to art for our many Art + Storytellers,” said Murray, who tries slightly different approaches each session as she refines the program.

Murray and the kids ventured onto another floor to look at a frozen landscape, using their imaginary cameras to take mental images and their “drawing fingers” to trace the shapes. After the tour, Lauren Lessing, the museum’s Mirkin Director of Academic and Public Programs, with whom Murray has collaborated on the program, read a picture book titled Brrrrrr! to the children and their adults. “Art + Storytelling is a true family program,” said Murray, who believes the museum has “been reaching our goals of bringing in new audiences, offering a unique art experience to families, and expanding the inclusivity of the museum.”

The Colby museum sponsors an array of community events and welcomes hundreds of school visitors to campus each year.

At the end of the snowy adventure, everyone got to ride downstairs in the big shiny elevator, make a special winter craft, and have a snack. Murray, who is going abroad for the spring semester, is interested in continuing her work in museum development after graduation. It’s a field she believes will “fuse [her] passion for the arts and methodical mindset.”