Mother helping children create art

The CMA is the place for creative families

Our interactive family programs now offer parents and children the opportunity to explore the many aspects of art and culture together. Listen to storytelling in the galleries, take a family safari through our collection or create a piece of original artwork—these are just a few of the entertaining activities the whole family can enjoy.

Meet Gladys

Everyday offerings for Families Back to top

Children exploring the galleries with backpacks

Art Explorer Backpacks

Art Explorer Backpacks are designed to encourage families to not only have fun in the galleries with interactive activities but also to feel like the galleries are accessible and welcoming. Each backpack includes a sketchbook with colored pencils, a pair of binoculars, a compass, and hands-on activities that relate to the theme of the backpack chosen. Themes to choose from are pattern, color, shape, and the current traveling exhibition.

These Art Backpacks are fun for ages from 2 to 10. For younger children, the backpacks can be explored as a family, with an adult or older sibling working with them. For 6 to 10 year olds, they can enjoy using these by themselves or with their parents and older sibling/s. To check out a backpack, simply ask at the admissions desk!

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Gallery Guides

Gallery Guides

For interactive fun, look no further! Learn about art with scavenger hunts and other activities that get the whole family involved. With these family-friendly gallery guides, you'll see the fun side of art!

Available for free in the Interactive Education Gallery.

Interactive Education Gallery

Interactive Education Gallery

The mission of the Interactive Education Gallery at the Columbia Museum of Art is to foster the creation, appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of the visual arts through student exhibitions and an interactive art environment. Emphasizing creativity and excellence, we reach out to South Carolina teachers, students, parents and the public to develop a dialogue based on works from our permanent collection and special exhibitions. This work coupled with our interactive components, give our visitors a visual arts language by fostering their ability to think critically and creatively.
Free everyday!

Birthday celebration

Art-Full Birthday Celebration

A two-hour party includes a gallery tour, a hands-on art activity, invitations, and a Gladys art smock for the birthday child. $185 for up to 15 participants. For more information or to book a party, call Chelsea Swentik at 343.2215 or email

  • Animal Art Safari
    (ages 4-7)
  • Finding Fairies
    (ages 4-7)
  • Gods and Goddesses
    (ages 8-12)
  • Jewels, Fabulous Jewels
    (ages 8-12)
Animal Art Safari (ages 4-7)
Partiers go on a safari through the galleries and find the animals that call the Museum home. Then discover a new species in the studio by creating an animal collage from your imagination!
Finding Fairies (ages 4-7)
Enter a world of magic and wonder as partiers search for fairies in the galleries. Discover different types of fairies, and then create a small house for your favorites!
Gods and Goddesses (ages 8-12)
Consort with the gods and seek out ancient mysteries in the galleries. Partiers get art smart with Greek and Roman mythology and create an "ancient relic" in the studio.
Jewels, Fabulous Jewels (ages 8-12)
Party guests get inspired by designs and patterns in the galleries then sketch out ideas for their own jewelry line, taking fabulous designs from sketch to a finished piece!
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Programs & Events Back to top

Family having fun in CMA studios

Passport to Art

Come get your Passport to Art! This year-round program for families features a new hands-on art project each month. After spending time in our open studios, explore our galleries at your own leisure or join us for the Family Tour at 1:00 p.m.

Held the second Sunday of the month from 12:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Parents making art with children

Gladys' Gang

Join us for this exciting new series! Participants (ages 2-5) and their adult companions explore art through the introduction of elementary art terms such as color, line, shape and texture. This FREE monthly program includes a gallery visit, story time and a creative studio activity.

Registration required as space is limited.

Child with art she creating at a Family Fun Day

Family Fun Days

Family Fun Days are semi-annual events that connect to the childhood themes of Halloween and Valentine’s Day through specialized tours and art activities. These events encourage families to experience art and fun together.

Spooktacular Night at CMA

Come have a ghoulishly good time at the fourth annual “Spooktacular” family fun event. As darkness falls, the Museum transforms with ghosts, bats, pumpkins, art stations, sweet treats, and more! Make sure to wear your costume as you embark on a spooky gallery tour. Visit the Mad Scientist’s Laboratory as he conducts some exciting experiments. And at the stroke of 7:00, enjoy a performance by the band Lunch Money. Sponsored by The Junior League of Columbia and the City of Forest Acres. Admission is free with a canned good donation to Harvest Hope Food Bank.

Sweet on CMA

Saturday, February 14, 2015 | Noon - 3:00 p.m.
Families are invited to Feel the Love (of ART) at “Family Fun Day: Sweet on CMA!” Get creative at art stations and make a valentine for someone special. Take a Love-Struck Tour, participate in the “I Heart Art” Gallery Hunt, and strike a pose in the “Be Mine” Selfie Booth. See the Columbia Marionette Theater perform “Hansel and Gretel” at 1:00 p.m. Don’t forget to purchase some sweet treats! Sponsored by Eau Claire Cooperative Health Centers. FREE.

Family Membership Options Back to top

Be the CMA

Benefits include:

  • Admission benefits for two adults and children/grandchildren (18 and under)
  • Priority registration and 20% discount on summer camps & art classes
  • Free admission to all Family Fun Events
More info about joining