Decades of research confirm the academic and social developmental benefits to kids from exposure to the arts. But despite our best intentions, it’s not always easy to schedule that museum visit or theater outing. If summer days outside gave way to back-to-school hubbub —and then to the holiday season rush — with nary a single art attack, take heart: Inspiring performances and exhibits are perfect for chasing away the post-holiday doldrums on the cloudy days of spring.
ParentMap’s annual preview of spring arts helps families know where to go and when. From theater performances to upcoming concerts, our 2019 arts preview helps kids around the Sound enjoy learning about art and culture.
Note: Shows with regular adult ticket prices of $15 or less are marked STEAL.
Based on the book about a 10-year-old girl who rescues a squirrel from a vacuum cleaner, “Flora & Ulysses” is a perfect example of the whimsical plotlines grounded by powerful emotional themes for which author Kate DiCamillo is known. Feb. 1–17. $15–$20. Ages 6+. Olympia Family Theater, Olympia.
SPLURGE: Pacific Northwest Ballet has a particularly family-friendly season this year, but few ballets are as perfectly designed to spark children’s imaginations as this classic tale. This full-length ballet dazzles with opulent sets, lavish costumes and fairies who really fly, plus the celebrated PNB Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s familiar score. Feb. 1–10. $37–$189. Ages 4+. McCaw Hall, Seattle.
STEAL: What happens to fairy-tale villains after everyone else gets their “happily ever after”? They go to reform school, of course. This year at Sparkle Fairy’s School for Formerly Vile Villains, we’ll find out if Captain Hook, Cinderella’s stepsisters, the Big Bad Wolf and Snow White’s queen are ready to mend their evil ways and graduate to pursue their own “happily ever afters.” Feb. 16–March 9. $12. Ages 5+ (all ages on Sundays). SecondStory Repertory, Redmond.
This year, this contemporary dance festival takes a bow for its 12th year, presenting extraordinary dance from all over the United States and a series of free all-ages and all-abilities dance classes and lectures/demonstrations. Feb. 16–17. $28 general admission (discounts available for military, TeenTix pass holders, students and seniors — check website). All ages. Meydenbauer Center Theatre, Bellevue.
Blending traditional elements of Native American art with contemporary art and pop culture references, this collection of paintings, beaded punching bags, sculpture, wall hangings and multimedia installations by artist Jeffrey Gibson is sure to capture kids’ imaginations. If your kids think art museums are like those shown in the movies — galleries full of dour portraits of medieval nobles — this is the exhibition to set them straight. Feb. 28–May 12. $25, kids younger than 12 free. All ages. Seattle Art Museum, Seattle.
Studio East and Kirkland Performance Center present the long-anticipated return of the Kirkland Community Musical, joining forces to present Meredith Wilson’s classic “The Music Man.” Many of the social conventions of mid-century River City may seem foreign to kids today, but librarians are still heroes. March 9–16. $24–$39. Ages 9+. Kirkland Performance Center, Kirkland.
South Sound families can see the Auburn Community Players perform “The Music Man” March 1–10 at Auburn Avenue Theater, $17–$22.
Only 40 minutes long and completely free of dialogue, this situational comedy celebrates the joy of play when Red Balloon interrupts The Old Man’s solitary birthday. Through spectacular physical comedy in the tradition of Charlie Chaplin, the two enjoy surprising adventures. March 14–July 7. $20–$40. Ages 3+. Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle.
Charles Schulz’s beloved comic comes to life in Clark Gesner’s classic musical, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Follow Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, Snoopy and Charlie Brown from Valentine’s Day to “Beethoven Day” in a series of vignettes and musical numbers. March 22–April 14. $12–$34. All ages. CenterStage Theatre, Federal Way.
SPLURGE: With a short runtime, live narration, lower-priced tickets and an audience full of youngsters, the annual matinee performance of the Pacific Northwest Ballet School is a perfect introduction to classical ballet for kids. This is not your average dance recital, though — many of these students have already performed in regular-season productions on the PNB stage, and some will go on to dance professionally next year. March 17 and 23. $23–$60. All ages. McCaw Hall, Seattle.
South Sound families can also see Tacoma City Ballet’s more traditional “Pinocchio” at the Federal Way Performing Arts and Events Center, March 22–24, $20–$70.
STEAL: This exhibition by artist Joseph Rossano casts light on the diminished state of global salmon and steelhead populations — species that are so important to Northwest culture and economics. The installation features a life-size school of mirrored salmon, sculpted from molten glass by concerned glassmakers from around the world, as well as firsthand video accounts from renowned scientists, artists and tribal members that provide context for the artwork. April 12–Aug. 11. $15, children younger than 6 free. All ages. Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue.
In his Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” Dvořák celebrated the bountiful and optimistic United States that welcomed him with open arms. “Untuxed” is a family-friendly series of short, no-intermission concerts. They provide an informal introduction to classical music during which the conductor addresses the audience and even the orchestra is casually dressed. April 12, 7 p.m. $13–$55. Ages 5+. Seattle Symphony, Seattle.
STEAL: In this not so traditional, but oh so delightful story about big beds, pining princesses, and petite peas, kids get an introduction to theater and encouragement to follow their hearts. Performed in multiple venues around Puget Sound, StoryBook Theater shows are 55-minute musicals filled with music, laughter, whimsical costumes and quirky characters, guaranteed to delight the entire family, but specially designed for kids. April 13–May 19. $15. Ages 3+. StoryBook Theater, Renton, Shoreline, Seattle, Everett and Kirkland.
SPLURGE: In this tour celebrating its 50th anniversary, globally acclaimed Dance Theatre of Harlem is continuing its legacy of diversifying classical ballet training. Its racially diverse, 16-member professional ensemble brings together artists from various dance styles and disciplines to create new works that influence and enhance the ballet art form. April 27–28. All ages. Paramount Theatre, Seattle.
STEAL: With choreography by Jerome Robbins, this musical adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s original play is performed primarily by young actors. This is a perfect chance to revisit a favorite or to introduce a new generation to the adventures of Peter, Tinkerbell, the Darling children and a ticking crocodile. May 24–June 9. $15–$17. Ages 5+. Studio East Mainstage Theater, Kirkland.
STEAL: It’s almost impossible to go wrong with Norton Juster’s beloved classic, “The Phantom Tollbooth,” in which a bored little boy discovers joy through imagination. The playful literalism of Juster’s eccentric portal fantasy is a story that generations of children have returned to throughout their lives when they find themselves, like Milo, in a hurry to get to places they don’t want to go. May 25–June 15. $12. Ages 5+ (all ages on Sundays). SecondStory Repertory, Redmond.
STEAL: With more than 400 films from 80 countries screened over 25 days, SIFF is the largest film festival in the United States. Themed film series help you navigate the options. Films4Families presents family-friendly matinees on weekends, while FutureWave focuses on stories for teens, and Face the Music features true stories from the music world. The 2019 program won’t be announced until much closer to the festival date, but you can count on an international selection of animated and live-action shorts and feature-length films quite unlike your standard Disney fare. May 16–June 9. $12 single tickets. All ages. Multiple venues, Seattle.
Enter Kim’s Convenience store and meet the Kims, a loving, if imperfect, Korean family making its way in Toronto. As family members face an uncertain future, they learn to see each other in a new light. Due to some language and innuendo, this show may not be appropriate for younger kids, but it’s a perfect reminder for teens that even if family isn’t always convenient, it might be the best deal out there. May 15–June 22. $20–$52. Ages 14+. Taproot Theatre, Seattle.