Robert L. Gordon III, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy)
With summer nearly upon us, I know we are all busily planning our summer activities to take advantage of some well-earned time off with family and friends. While there are many great deals available to our military members and families thanks to the generosity of our communities, I wanted to highlight one program in particular that I feel is rich with culture, history, education, and fun: Blue Star Museums. Through the Blue Star Museums program, all military members and their families receive free admission to more than 1,300 museums in all 50 states and the District of Columbia from Memorial Day, May 30, through Labor Day, Sept. 5, 2011. Visit the Blue Star Museums page on the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) web site and select your state for a complete listing of participating museums.
Blue Star Museums is the result of a partnership among Blue Star Families, the NEA and museums across the country. While available to all active/activated duty military members and families, the program was specifically designed to provide a fun outlet for the approximately one million children who have had at least one parent deployed. This will be only the second year for the program. More than 300,000 military families participated last year, visiting more than 950 sites across the country.
To assist in preparing for your museum visit, the NEA offers a free downloadable publication, Imagine! Introducing Your Child to the Arts, that gives parents practical ways to share the arts with their children with a specific focus on inspiring and encouraging younger children, ages 3-8. The guide also presents parents with activities and suggestions to help children appreciate and understand the visual arts, music, theater, media arts, dance, folk arts and literature. Also, including them in the planning process for which museums you attend as a family can be a wonderful way to empower your children.
As Blue Star Museums cover a range of interests, there’s always something for everyone to enjoy. Here are just some of the participating museums: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Art Institute of Chicago and Chicago Children’s Museum in Chicago, IL, and the Grammy Museum at LA Live in Los Angeles, CA. Of course, there are literally 1000’s of great museums in between, many right in your own communities. And for kids, many of the museums have special activities to capture their imagination and interest: at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, PA, tomorrow’s engineers can take apart household appliances like stereos and computers to see how they work. The GWiz Science Museum (Gulfcoast Wonder & Imagination Zone) in Sarasota, FL, introduces children and adults to science and technology with exhibits like “Mindball,” where competitors use brainwaves instead of muscles. Finally, museums such as the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, TX, offer cell phone tours, gallery kits, and other resources to help families enjoy their foray into the fine arts.
Blue Star Museums are a fun, easy, and free way to experience culture, the arts, and to continue our children’s education, even through the summer months. I encourage all our Service members and families to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. If you’re a military family that visited a participating Blue Star Museum last year, let us hear from you. Which museum did you visit? What did your kids like? What advice do you have for parents who are preparing their children for their first trip to a museum? We look forward to hearing from you, and as always take care, and we’ll see you next time.