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Hands On! Children's Art Museum


Open-Art Stations

Hands On! will house nine permanent open-art stations. These stations are the focus of our daily work. Our resident teaching artists will staff the open-art stations and will provide guidance when it is requested. The remainder of their time will be spent demonstrating their skills and maintaining the studio spaces. Each station provides a unique opportunity for Hands On! to further our purposes as an educational and charitable organization. The permanent open-art stations include:

  1. Little People Lounge. This is a place where our youngest visitors can freely explore their creativity and curiosity. All activities are open-ended and designed for children who are not yet ready for our open-art tables. The Lounge is stocked with an evolving supply of creative and challenging playthings including wall-mounted mirrors, a revolving display of eye level artwork, sorting boxes with color, shape, and texture cards, simple wooden puzzles, stacking toys, including graduated blocks and collapsible pole stacking rings, woolen and knit balls, and cloth blocks.
  2. Art Journey. Art Journey is a studio space that is specifically designed to meet the needs of toddlers. Young children will enjoy working at the Colorful Window (using colorform material), sculpting with homemade play-clay using cookie cutters, wooden mallets, rolling pins, and other tools, fingerpainting, stamping, and building with a variety of blocks, including architecture blocks, Kapla blocks, and tree blocks. In addition, there will be a handmade doll-sized treehouse stocked with fairies, trolls, and dolls for creative play.
  3. Sunflower Studio. All painting, printing, and similarly messy projects will take place here. The studio will be generously stocked with a multitude of different types of child friendly paints, inks, and dyes as well as a variety of papers, brushes, brayers, and printing mediums.
  4. Daisy Doodle-Shop. The focus in the Daisy Doodle-Shop is on drawing, design, and reproduction. This studio will contain a drawing table as well as two easels. Children can choose from a variety a drawing tools including color pencils, crayons, markers, watercolor pencils, chalk, charcoal pencils, and pastels. Discovery is possible through imitation or free exploration. Many paper textures and incomplete reproductions will be available for use.
  5. Sculpture Shop. All sculpture and three-dimensional art activities are held in the Sculpture Shop. Children are free to produce sculpture using the ever-changing materials, including found objects, purchased supplies, and items donated by local artisans.
  6. Weaving Loom. The weaving loom is a reproduction of a large Navajo loom. Children can enjoy the rhythmic process of weaving as the Navajo have for generations. The loom is a stationary exhibit and all weaving remains with the loom.
  7. I-MAC Imagination Station. Children can explore lines, shapes, form and design using a computer graphics design program. They can also explore the collection of CD-ROMs, featuring the works found in some of the world’s finest art galleries and museums.
  8. Poppyseed Palace. “Storytime at Poppyseed Palace” takes place twice daily at Poppyseed Palace. Storytime will include the reading of quality children’s storybooks and poetry books appropriate and challenging for children of all ages. Some storytime sessions will be augmented by the addition of live music, interactive theatre, and impromptu storytelling. When there is no storytime scheduled, children and their caregivers will be encouraged to choose a book from the children’s library and read together or to try their hand at assembling puzzles of famous works of art.
  9. Daily Special. This is an open-art station that hosts the special activities of the day, including beadmaking, quilting, or candlemaking, among others. The Daily Special will be a multi-use area and will be framed by a curtain and small puppet theatre. This area will also be used as a venue for presenting performance art and theatre pieces created by the children. The Daily Special is an in-depth, artist led activity that provides balance between a structured and an unstructured creative experience. The children will benefit from exploring the processes of art through the eyes of a professional artist.

In addition to the nine permanent stations, we will have a revolving set of installations, including a Shell Grotto, English Garden Light Design Table, and the City Design Architecture Board. These special exhibits will rotate on a quarterly basis and will be installed after Hands On! has been in operation for one full year.

Art Galleries

We will have three art galleries:

  1. Children’s Gallery. This is an exhibit showcasing the work created by the children who visit Hands On!
  2. Artworks Gallery. This gallery is dedicated to the presentation of reproductions of work created by famous (and not so famous) grown-up artists.
  3. Chicago Artists Gallery. This gallery provides a venue for our resident artists, as well as other area artists, to showcase their work.

The resident teaching artists staffing the museum will be available to answer questions and guide visitors through the galleries. These galleries provide an opportunity for our visitors to explore the full range of visual arts in all its forms, past and present. As children are exposed to quality art, it becomes an integral part of their lives. These experiences will be the catalyst to a lifetime of appreciation of and a respect for their own creativity and the creativity of others.

Additional Services


Our facility will house an extensive non-circulating children’s library that will contain high quality books about artists, dancers, musicians, and composers, and their lives and work. Hands On! will also provide a resource library for adults who are interested in furthering their knowledge of the arts. The resource library will be a collection of reference books, museum guides, prints, postcard collections, and brochures that will enable the user to learn more about the work of a particular artist, style, or period in art history.

Outreach Program

Hands On! is dedicated to fostering the creative spirits of all children. To this end, we will offer an extensive outreach program, Art Encounters. Hands On! will provide programming that meets the needs of schools, community groups, and private organizations. Most programs will run between one and two hours in length, and most will run during regular museum hours, but arrangements will be made to accommodate before and after hours programs. Representative programs include: “Artists Past and Present,” “Open-Art Table Extravaganza,” “Global Art,” and “Girl Scout Badge Work.” In addition, Hands On! will provide programming for children with special needs that will be developed and executed by a licensed art therapist. All other programs will be developed and executed by resident teaching artists. Hands On! expects that Art Encounters will eventually be a substantial part of its programming.


Hands On! will sponsor two classes for young children: Culture Bugs and Art Colony. Participants will have an intensive multi-media arts experience that involves painting, collage, music, and movement. They develop an awareness of their environment through the manipulation of materials, and sensory awareness is expanded through activities that stimulate hearing, sight, and touch. The classes will meet weekly for six week sessions. Classes will be facilitated by a resident teaching artist.

Hands On! will offer a unique program directed toward the interests of young adults between the ages of 13 and 17. We will offer a flexible series of special classes, workshops, and seminars that introduce students to a wide variety of art mediums. Topics include the basics of photography and darkroom, animation, and exploring the art of portraiture. The Apprentice Workshop is held once weekly for three hours. Students can choose to participate on a weekly basis, or cater the program to meet their needs and register for only a portion of the program. All sessions are led by a resident teaching artist. Apprentice Workshop will become a regular part of Hands On!‘s programming after we have been in operation for one full year.

Concert Series

The First Friday Concert Series will begin as a bi-monthly event until Hands On! has been in operation for one full year. This programming will then be presented on a monthly basis. The programs will be one hour in length and will feature classical, jazz, and world music, as well as dance, storytelling, and theatre performances presented by Chicago-based performers.

Family Workshops

Hands On! will sponsor the Second Sunday Family Workshop that will give all members of families the opportunity to create art together in a positive and fun environment. Our senior staff artists will introduce new and involved art processes for a creative, yet challenging experience. This workshop will meet in the Daily Special studio.

Film Series

The Saturday Afternoon Film Series will emphasize high quality videos appropriate for the viewing of all children. Most films will be about the lives and work of important artists, composers, musicians, and dancers. Most film viewings will last approximately one hour.

Additional Programs

After Hands On! has been operating for one full year, we will add additional programming, including quarterly Docent Visits by representatives of different galleries and museums located in the Chicago area. Docents will be prepared to answer questions about their collections and special exhibits, as well as help participants navigate the gallery or museum with their children.

Hands On! will sponsor quarterly Field Trips to various cultural destinations throughout Chicago, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra children’s matinees.

Curiosity Shop

Hands On! plans to open a small Curiosity Shop that will sell affordable, quality art supplies, handmade toys, and other unique items. Most items will be made by artists and sold on a consignment basis.