Once a month, the Telfair Museum of Art offers free Family Days to help promote art, culture and quality family time. August's event is Near East Family Day.

Harry Delorme, the senior curator of education at Telfair, said the day "celebrates the art of countries and cultures represented in the 'Allure of the Near East' exhibition, which opens at the Jepson Center on Aug. 16.

It's an amazing exhibition that includes art that is rarely - if ever - seen in our area, including centuries-old pieces from Egypt, Turkey, Iran, India and elsewhere."

We sat with Delorme to find out more about this offering made possible in part by the city of Savannah Department of Cultural Affairs.

DO: How did the idea for the free family fun days come about?

Delorme: Family Days at Telfair go back a long way. The city of Savannah has provided project funding for four free family days per year for more than two decades.

These are larger events based on major exhibitions, and include hands-on activities for children, artists' demonstrations, gallery activities and performances. About 2,000 people attend these each year.

Nearly two years ago, we also started a drop-in family studio program called "What can we make?" which takes place each Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

It's an informal studio program that is available with museum admission or to members. Thanks to new funding this year from Georgia Power and the AGL

Resources Foundation, we have been able to expand the drop-in program and complement the city-funded Family Days by offering a free Family Day every month.


What: Telfair Museum of Art Free Family Day

When: 1-4 p.m. Aug. 17; concert begins at 3 p.m.

Where: Jepson Center, 207 W. York St.

Cost: Free

Info: www.telfair.org/learn/free-family-days

This is part of an overall effort to make the museum more accessible to families in our community throughout the year.

Most of these events take place at the Jepson Center to take advantage of our larger exhibitions and education studios.

DO: What has been the reaction?

Delorme: We are excited about the response and particularly that the numbers are rising. We started offering monthly Family Days in May before most of our marketing was in place, and still attracted more than 100 people.

The next month, the city-funded Juneteenth Family Day attracted nearly 400.

The July event (which tied into our New York Accents exhibition and took place at two of our three museums), was attended by more than 240 at the Jepson Center and by 270 at the Telfair Academy.

So the audience has been growing steadily, and I believe there is more awareness in the community.

DO: Why do you feel it's beneficial to get families out experiencing art and museums together?

Delorme: Learning doesn't always happen in formal educational settings. There has been a lot of writing and research on informal education in museums.

Families who discuss works of art together are going to be able to build on that experience the next time they look at art. Art is open to different interpretations, so it's a great subject to explore as a group.

We always include activities and games right in the exhibition galleries, so that learning isn't separated from the actual art objects.

I think it's also important to offer hands-on art-making opportunities. The act of making something is fun, it can increase understanding of the artist's working methods and it enhances problem-solving skills.

DO: What are some of the highlights for August?

Delorme: Highlights include a 2,000-year-old figure of Isis from Roman-period Egypt, exquisite examples of calligraphy, furniture and metalwork. Families will enjoy storytelling and hands-on activities ...

The main event of the afternoon will be a performance by TURKU, a popular band known as "Nomads of the Silk Road," who present the musical traditions of Turkey, Persia and the Balkans. It's a rare chance to hear live Middle Eastern music locally, free of charge, thanks to the city of Savannah.

DO: What do you hope kids take away from their visit?

Delorme: The education team at Telfair hopes that kids will take away an excitement, curiosity and enthusiasm about art.

... We hope Family Day audiences are leaving with a better understanding of the diversity of artistic expression, from the Geechee Gullah culture of our region to New York's sophisticated art scene, to cultures from Spain and the Middle East.

Kids can also physically take away something that they have made, be it a T-shirt that they screenprinted or a shadow puppet they have assembled and decorated.

DO: What's been the best compliment you've received regarding these family fun days?

Delorme: It was fun reading all of the comments kids attached on a giant map for the last event. I heard one mom say excitedly, "I've put all of the (Family Day) dates for the year into my phone."

It's gratifying to see families spend a long time in the museum and really get into the subject matter. To me, smiles are probably the best compliment.

DO: What else does the Jepson have planned for the rest of 2013?

Delorme: We have some great Family Days in store for the remainder of the year, with themes including Shiny Shapes (related to our Silver exhibition), a Sketch Crawl, encouraging families to explore their world with sketch books, and a do-it-yourself holiday printmaking theme in December.

The big event this fall will be November's Family Day, which will have a Spanish theme - celebrating our exhibition of Robert Henri's Spanish paintings - and will include a Flamenco dance performance, portrait artists and Spanish language tours.

Our education team and interns work hard to come up with meaningful gallery and studio activities for each of these programs.

DO: Anything else you'd like to add?

Delorme: In addition, though it's not a Family Day, we want to encourage families to take advantage of the rare opportunity to watch the Tibetan Monks create a sand mandala painting during their city-funded residency at the Jepson Center, September 23-29. Finally, I would like to invite everyone to come out and have fun at the museum!