Gladys’ Gang grows at the Columbia Museum of Art

Little learners get up close and personal with art during Gladys’ Gang.

Columbia, S.C. – Transformation continues at the Columbia Museum of Art. Gladys’ Gang, a free program that prepares children for kindergarten through art, is expanding to better serve participants. Starting in January, Gladys’ Gang will move from one monthly program for 2- to 5-year-olds to two monthly programs, one for 2- and 3-year-olds and another for 4- and 5-year-olds.

“We have seen tremendous growth in our regular Gladys’ Gang participants,” says Glenna Barlow, CMA Manager of Education. “We see children working hard on their fine motor skills in their art making and looking thoughtfully at works of art, building critical thinking and visual literacy skills. Caregivers, too, are engaging their little ones with art in the galleries in meaningful ways, directing their attention to elements of art and reinforcing connections between visual and verbal cues. We realized, though, that there was more that we could do. The developmental growth that happens between the ages of two and five is incredible. In order to better serve some of our youngest visitors, we wanted to be able to offer specialized programs tailored to their particular needs.”

The toddler program emphasizes elements like movement, songs, and tactile experiences, while the preschool program includes more in-depth conversations about works of art and focuses on developing skills for kindergarten readiness, from cutting and tracing to counting and following patterns.

“Our hope is that this expanded Gladys’ Gang program will continue to help our early learners build critical skills through art while giving each audience more of what they need to succeed,” says Barlow.

Based on the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework models of early childhood education, Gladys’ Gang has had a devoted audience since its inception in 2014.

“I started bringing my son to Gladys’ Gang when he was two, and we continued to go until he started kindergarten,” says Britt Buguey, former Gladys’ Gang regular and current CMA docent. “I have wonderful memories of watching him develop from one of the toddlers rolling around during story time to a curious preschooler sitting in the front row answering and asking questions intently. Gladys’ Gang provides so many of the important skills that can be gained through art exposure, in addition to being a fun way to strengthen motor skills through art creation.”

Beyond the educational benefits, Gladys’ Gang is meant to make the museum more accessible to young families, who may feel apprehensive about visiting with little ones in tow.

“I think one of the most important things that programs like Gladys’ Gang provides is taking the fear out of bringing a toddler to the museum!” says Buguey. “We don’t think of art museums as places for kids, but that attitude is changing because of community-oriented places like the CMA, which creates a truly welcoming, non-intimidating environment for families. Over the years I’ve been able to expose my children to some of the giants of the art world such as Warhol, Rockwell, and O’Keeffe. The CMA is a gift to families in the Columbia area, and I look forward to watching family programming at the museum evolve, both as a parent and a volunteer.”

Gladys’ Gang Toddler Edition: Hip to Be Square
Wednesday, January 2 | 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Gladys’ Gang Toddler Edition focuses on movement, motor skills, and visual literacy skills. Each program includes a story, gallery time, and an age-appropriate studio activity that emphasizes the process of artmaking rather than the final product. The toddler edition is specially designed for 2- and 3-year-old participants and their adult companions as a way to explore art through movement and play. Siblings welcome!

This month we’re focusing on shapes. Art is full of shapes—shapes like squares can be windows, quilts, or just, well, squares! Join us as we explore modern works of art in Midcentury Masters and create our own geometric compositions. Key topic: shape. Free. Registration required for all participants as space is limited.

Gladys’ Gang Preschool Edition: Hip to Be Square
Wednesday January 16 | 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Gladys’ Gang Preschool Edition is specially designed for 4- and 5-year-old participants and their adult companions as a way to explore art through play and inquiry and build skills for kindergarten readiness. Each program includes a story, gallery time, and an age-appropriate studio activity that emphasizes the process of artmaking rather than the final product. Siblings welcome!

This month we’re focusing on shapes. Art is full of shapes—shapes like squares can be windows, quilts, or just, well, squares! Join us as we explore modern works of art in Midcentury Masters and create our own geometric compositions. Key topic: shape. Free. Registration required for all participants as space is limited.

For more information, visit columbiamuseum.org.

About the CMA
The Columbia Museum of Art is a charitable nonprofit organization dedicated to lifelong learning and community enrichment for all. Located in the heart of downtown Columbia, S.C., the CMA ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and creative educational programs. At the heart of the CMA and its programs is its collection, which encompasses 7,000 works and spans 5,000 years of art history. Established in 1950, the CMA now welcomes more than 150,000 visitors annually and is a catalyst for community creativity and education, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds. It is the recipient of a National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a National Art Education Association award for its contributions to arts education, a National Park Foundation Award, and two Elizabeth O'Neill Verner Governor's Awards for the Arts for outstanding contributions to the arts in South Carolina. In order to serve even more audiences, the CMA is undergoing a transformation funded by a successful capital campaign. In order to serve even more audiences, the CMA recently underwent a transformation. Funded by a successful capital campaign, the two-year renovation project garnered new collection galleries with a progressive thematic layout, new studios for artmaking, cutting-edge program and event spaces, an entrance on Main Street, and a revamped CMA shop. Overall, more than 20,000 square feet of functional space were added to the building’s existing footprint. To learn more, visit www.columbiamuseum.org.