Crocker Art, The Next Generation

Millennials and Babies at the Museum

Close your eyes and picture an art gallery. What do you see? It is a serene space filled with professionally-dressed gray hairs quietly observing the latest exhibit, or is it a building bursting with boisterous, costume-clad young adults and children dancing to live music?

At the Crocker Art Museum, both scenes are just as accurate, depending on the time and day. But it’s the lively, playful atmosphere that’s driving Millennial membership.

For years, museums, dance companies and theater groups alike have faced the same challenge: Reaching younger generations.

Through events like Art Mix, Wee Wednesday and Baby Loves Art, the Crocker has found a way to “recapture the next generation and stay relevant to the up-and-coming generations,” says Stacey Shelnut-Hendrick, the museum’s Director of Education. Most social events are free with membership or daily admission.

The bi-monthly, Baby Loves Art program gives moms and dads a chance to connect with other parents and view the museum’s current exhibits with babbling or even crying babies in tow. The experience is educational for all. “By looking at art and having conversations about it, parents stimulate their babies’ brains,” explains Sheltnut-Hendrick.

At Wee Wednesday, ages 3 to 5 learn to think about and interact with art. With their parents’ or caregivers’ help, children consider the emotion of a portrait: Is the subject happy or sad? Then, they have the hands-on experience of creating their own art, such as molding together a nose or mouth.

In conjunction with First 5 California, these programs also equip moms and dads with skills to become stronger parents, Shelnut-Hendrick explains.

For many, Wee Halloween is the highlight of the year. Little superheroes, doctors, princesses and Pokemons age 5 and under trick-or-treat their way through the museum, encountering art performances and receiving handmade crafts instead of candy at every stop. To keep the “sweetness” of the October 26 event, space is limited and registration is required.

And while you don’t have to be born after 1982 to join in the fun, “The idea is to give Millennial parents a way to enjoy art with their kids without dumbing it down,” Sheltnut-Hendrick says.

But sometimes, mom and dad need a night of kid-free time. And for that, Art Mix is the answer.

Every second Thursday, 700 to 1,300 adults age 21 and up descend upon the museum for a themed, interactive, mixed-media party. Whether it’s August’s Burning-Man-esque Combust or this month’s Halloween-themed Dance Macabre, the events are designed to introduce patrons to a variety of culture communities. From ballet to burlesque, hip hop to alt-country and fashion to photography, an eclectic group of artists entertain while guests enjoy drink specials.

Art Mix also gives the museum a chance to “stay ahead of the curve and stay relevant to what’s happening,” says Shelnut-Hendrick. In November, voters exhausted from the grueling election can unload at Howl, an event to get people ranting and raving to their peers amid socially-conscious art and performances.

Through these programs and more, the Crocker aims to attract the next generation, while serving as a culture hub for all ages residing in the Greater Sacramento area.