Kids' Democracy Day at the Walker Art Center

Kids' Democracy Day at the Walker Art Center
Photo by Bethanie Hines

Nothing says "patriotism" like making a protest sign, right? This month's Free First Saturday at the Walker Art Center is all about civic engagement. Kids and their families will have a chance to explore what it means to be a pro-active member of a democracy, whether that be through discussion, crawling through an obstacle course of red tape, or imagining a whole new society.

The museum has a long history of civic engagement, and tends to do something special around the Fourth of July that "lends itself to what it means to be patriotic," says Christina Alderman, who handles family programming at the Walker. However, the museum is less concerned with what it means to be an ideal American, and is more interested in exploring what it means to be a civically engaged family. 

Parents assert political influence over their children all the time, although it's not something that's proactively talked about. For this month's Free First Saturday event, the Walker has worked with local artist and community organizer Sarah Peters, who was formerly on the Walker's staff, to work around ideas of politics that would be accessible to families in a fun and simple -- but not in a simple-minded -- way.
Katrina Knutson with a protest sign stencil 
Katrina Knutson with a protest sign stencil 

Peters worked with artist Sam Gould and his son, Louis Baldwin-Gould, to map out different political topics, finding ways that parents can connect with their kids about them. They've come up with a calendar that you can put on your wall. The calendars include space for coloring, and also guided space for how to talk about different political issues with conversation prompts. Some of the topics addressed by the calendars include questions like "What if you have a lot of something and someone else has not very much, what should you do?" and "Is it okay to not get along?" and "When do you feel powerful? What does that mean? When do you feel less powerful?" and "Should you always get what you want?" 

Another activity will be protest sign making by local graffiti artist Katrina Knutson. Families will have a chance to make their own signs supporting things they want to change. "We know there's going to be different opinions," Alderman says.

Another fun element of the day will be a chance to experience different bureaucratic departments, including the Department of Mustachery, the Department of Departmenthood and Departmentality, and the Department of Memorial Memorability. Kids will get to crawl through an obstacle course of red tape, fill out Mad Libs-type questionnaires, and make their own coins.

Photo by Bethanie Hines 
Photo by Bethanie Hines 

The day will also include performances at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. by the local group Bomba, which plays a Puerto Rican style of music. The group plays traditional tunes, including protest songs, in Spanish and incorporates call-and-response elements and dancing in huge skirts. 

Finally, the local political group MN 350, will be demonstrating cooking with a solar oven, and will do little performances throughout the day. 

The fact that this is an election year and that the Walker just opened "This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s" lends itself to the particularly political bent to the day's activities, but Alderman says that more than that, the museum just wanted people to start talking to each other. 

"We sort of went gung-ho on this one because we want people to be politically engaged," she says. "Given things are so divided, we really feel people need to talk to each other." 

Free First Saturday: Kids' Democracy Day
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Walker Art Center
Performances by Bomba at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. 
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Walker Art Center

1750 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55403


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