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Free admission is just the first reason to check out the family-friendly museum.
Monday, November 5, 2012
When the movers and shakers of Roanoke’s art world conceived and constructed the Taubman Museum of Art, they probably did not expect that some of the biggest attractions would be crayons, scissors, rubber stamps and construction paper.
And plays that feature young people costumed as mice, rabbits and toy boats.
That’s what has drawn me and my family there, though.
Love the activities
I have been to the Taubman about a dozen times in the past couple of years, and at least 10 of those trips involved some sort of kids’ activity, either at Art Venture, the museum’s hands-on gallery and studio for young people, or during a production by the Roanoke Children’s Theatre, which stages its plays at the museum.
I hear they have pretty paintings and nice sculptures at the Taubman, too.
Look, I know the beleaguered $66 million museum has had its problems since it opened its glass doors on Salem Avenue four years ago.
People hated the look of this modern architecture showpiece set among the historic buildings near the City Market. The ambitious goals were unrealistic. The place bled money from the start and laid off staff almost immediately. Some folks complained that there really wasn’t enough inside to warrant return trips.
The place has had some positive news lately with the announcement that the big-money guys are riding to the rescue and that a nice donation from Advance Auto will do away with admission prices, opening the doors for free for the foreseeable future.
That’s good news, but the truth is that the Taubman, for all its problems and money woes, has offered a lot of great stuff for families all along.
Art Venture was retooled and reopened this year, providing more art activities for kids. A few weeks ago, on one of the “Spectacular Saturdays” when there was no admission (Dad is frugal; others might say “cheap”), my 6-year-old colored paper pumpkins , drew pictures and could have made a Christmas ornament for display on the museum’s tree.
The reason she didn’t make the ornament is because we opted for Roanoke Children’s Theatre workshop that was held in the Art Venture space. The theater has a miniature, curtained stage where theater employees give demonstrations and provide brief acting lessons for Roanoke’s next crop of child stars.
Take advantage of RCT
Roanoke Children’s Theatre is easily one of the most fun and fulfilling family activities we have taken advantage of.
Their productions, which feature local children in speaking and nonspeaking roles alongside more seasoned actors, are usually bright, snappy shows that appeal to both kids and parents. They also stage plays for teenage audiences . Some of those feature much more serious themes than, say, “When You Give a Mouse a Cookie.”
My daughter attended one of RCT’s summer camps this year, spending a week rehearsing for a presentation of “Alice in Wonderland.” She and one of her friends had fun learning lines and singing songs for the musical, which they performed on a Saturday at the end of the camp.
The week was a good confidence-builder for my kid. The camp stuck with her, evidenced by the fact that she can still sing the songs and recite some of her lines from the show.
Their plays are short, too, which should suit parents with little kids and theater-averse dads with short attention spans.
Yes, the Taubman has had its share of troubles, many of them self-inflicted thanks to pie-in-the-sky dreams that never had a chance of becoming realities. Despite that, the museum is still worth visiting, still worth supporting and still worth taking the family to.
Now that every day will be free, it’s more than worth the price of admission, too.
Ralph Berrier Jr.’s column runs every other Monday in Extra.
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