Every year, nearly a thousand grade-school children explore the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedalia as part of an interactive education event called Daum Escape.

For many of these children, it’s their first experience up close and personal with art in a formal setting.

The staff at The Daum, as the museum is affectionately known, take this responsibility seriously. “What happens here can affect their appreciation for both art and the museum-going experience for the rest of their lives,” Thomas Piché Jr., museum director and curator, says.

The exterior of the museum features two ceramic sculptures by Arnold Zimmerman.

From the moment they walk in the door, eyes wide as they gaze up at the Violet Chandelier—a bulbous, blown-glass installation by world-renowned artist Dale Chihuly that graces the atrium—the kids are immersed in a world of grown-up imagination and creativity at play. They enjoy educational tours provided by members of the museum’s docent corps. On these tours, the children learn about contemporary art and are encouraged to look, think, and talk.

Dale Chihuly’s Cathedral Violet Chandelier was created in 1999. It is 72 inches wide and 107 inches tall.

As part of the Daum Escape each year, the museum’s curator of education, Vicki Weaver, offers professional development opportunities for teachers to learn practical ways of incorporating art education and critical thinking into their curriculum. One such method is called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS).

Andrea Kuhlman, the English as a Second Language teacher at Horace Mann Elementary in Sedalia, says of VTS, “I have seen improvements in my students’ confidence levels, vocabulary usage, and writing skills. Children who once were too shy or embarrassed around their American peers to participate in VTS are now raising their hands and sharing ideas.”

Docent Robyn Miley and Sedalia Middle School students explore the exhibition Rebecca Hutchinson: Tranquil Bloom Sedalia.

Thomas adds, “The Daum Escape is central to the Daum’s mission ‘to shed light on the stimulating complexity of contemporary art.’ ” Helping Missouri teachers apply art and self-expression in the classroom furthers this mission and The Daum’s legacy in a tangible way.

While a visit to The Daum feels like a cultural experience straight out of the big city, the museum sits resplendent amongst the lush, green backdrop of the State Fair Community College campus in Sedalia, perhaps better known for the Missouri State Fair.

But since 2002, over twelve thousand Daum visitors each year have also been welcomed into nearly ten thousand square feet and three stories of exquisitely curated exhibits. The growing permanent collection of over two thousand pieces from the early 1960s to the present features well-known artists like Andy Warhol, Louise Bourgeois, and Ansel Adams. The museum also has a dedicated endowment fund to help keep the collection fresh by adding relevant pieces and to bring in complementary temporary exhibitions every year.

Jane Booth: Instinct is on view at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art until May 31, 2020.

Thomas explains, “Because the core of the permanent collection comprises large-scale, abstract paintings and sculptural ceramics, these two areas receive special attention in exhibitions, as is the case in the current Jane Booth exhibition.”

The late Dr. Harold F. Daum, a retired radiologist, made a generous donation to create the museum. Dr. Daum also gave paintings and an impressive selection of sculptural ceramics—about three hundred—from his private collection. The legacy continues; ceramics also remain a highlight at the museum named for its primary benefactor.

The Daum Museum is free and open to the public every day of the week except Mondays. Visit DaumMuseum.org for details on hours, events, and ever-changing exhibits.

Photos // Daum Museum of Contemporary Art