Horse Drawn: Art Comes to Life at the Fralin Museum’s Family Art JAM

Little kid petting a horses face

A young art patron greets Belle, the Fralin Museum of Art's super-sized guest model.

Children who visited The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia’s monthly Family Art JAM over the weekend were in for a treat.

During the program, “The Sublime Equine: The Art of the Horse,” children discussed drawings of horses by Pablo Picasso, Eugene Delacroix and others. Afterward, they went on a short walk outside, where Belle, a Clydesdale and miniature pony mix, was waiting for them.

Belle, a first-time model, was transported from Orange for the weekend to model for the Art JAM attendees. After taking turns petting the pony, the children and their parents used oil pastels to practice drawing the live model.

“I like that we can go and look at the different pictures [in the museum] and then draw it,” said 9-year-old Kaylee, a regular participant in the children’s outreach program. “It’s really fun.”

The program’s subject, equine art, ran in conjunction with the museum’s exhibition, “Corot to Cézanne: French Drawings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” on loan from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Aimee Hunt, the Art JAM’s instructor and associate academic curator at the museum, uses exhibits as a launching point when she devises the program sessions.

“My goal for the Family Art JAMs is to make the museum’s exhibitions accessible to children,” she said. “I always just go into a new exhibition with an open mind, and try to figure out what will interest children in the show. I also try to imagine it from their perspective, and think about what they will need to have explained to them to understand the show.”

This wasn’t the first time Family Art JAMs have included live models, but Belle was clearly the largest. “We hired human figure models for a show on the Fourteenth Street School,” Hunt said. “We also brought in birds and fish last year when we were talking about 17th-century bird and flower paintings from China.”

Past sessions have also focused on photography, prints, calligraphy, dance, and making a poetry collage. 

“They talk about art before they do art,” said Lynn Siemon, who has brought her granddaughter to Art JAMs for the past two years. “We’ve never been to the same program twice. The topics are extremely original and interesting for kids, and [my granddaughter] has learned so much about art. And she loves it.”

Family Art JAMs are part of the Fralin’s growing outreach efforts. “Programs such as these are integral to reaching the broader Charlottesville community,” Hunt said. “We try to reach as broad an audience as possible with our programming, a sort of ‘something for everyone’ approach.”

In addition to the Family Art JAM, the museum also hosts its signature writing competition, the Writer’s Eye; a mentoring partnership with the Boys and Girls Club; specialized tours for people with Alzheimer’s accompanied by their caregivers; private tours for students from the Virginia Institute for Autism; special workshops for teachers and students; and participates in occasional community festivals.  

Due to increased demand, the museum will be offering Family Art JAMs during the summer months. The next Family Art JAM, “Artful Animals,” will take place July 20 and 21.

The program for 5- to 7-year-olds and their accompanying adults runs from 1 to 3 p.m. Eight- to 12-year-olds are invited to attend from 3 to 5 p.m. with an adult. The program is capped at 15 children per session.

Family Art JAMs are available to museum members for $15 and to non-members for $20 for one adult with one or two children. Additional children or adults can attend for $5 each.

Scholarships are available upon request. Museum membership is available for $75 for families and $40 for seniors and U.Va. faculty and staff. Information on programs and membership levels is available here.

To register for a Family Art JAM, call 434-243-2050 or email

The museum is located at 155 Rugby Road, a short walk from the Rotunda, across the street from Madison Bowl.

by Lauren Jones

Media Contact

Robert Hull

Office of University Communications