By Emerald Cassidy
The first Friday of every month draws the Rye family to The Grace Museum like clockwork.
“We absolutely love Tot Spot,” said Jamie Rye, Mamie Jane’s mother. “We are so thankful for Jana Bailey and The Grace Museum for offering an amazing program that allows our daughter to learn simple art techniques and history of the Abilene art scene. We always look forward to the first Friday of the month.”
Tot Spot, an educational program offered by The Grace, attracts more than 700 children like Mamie Jane each year. Children ages 3 to 5 learn about and create art and have a chance to experience the hands-on activities and gallery games at the children’s museum. Bailey, art educator for The Grace, teaches the classes, which take place on the first Thursday and Friday of every month and are typically limited to 20 children with a parent.
“Tot Spot has been the entry way into a world of art appreciation for all three of my kiddos,” said Jessica Wuerflein Pietsek, mother to Jaxon, Hudson and Sofia. “The projects relate to the current exhibits and make it possible for the children to express their own version of the art they have just viewed.”
The goal of The Grace Museum is to bring the experience of art, history and education to the region, Bailey said.
The museum presents 12 exhibitions each year celebrating the best in contemporary and historic Texas and American art, including history and photography. The Grace focuses on educational opportunities as well, including more than 150 school tours per year and art education outreach in the classrooms to more than 3,500 students in Abilene and Wylie school districts.
Their outreach isn’t limited to the Big Country, however.
“Schools in rural communities across the nation often rely on technology such as distance learning to participate in reading and art projects,” Bailey said. This fall, The Grace has connected with more than 1,000 students from 20 rural communities, as far away as Wisconsin. These classrooms receive books and art supplies in advance and a Grace art educator leads instruction via an online camera.