September 3, 2014, Philadelphia PA — The Barnes Foundation has collaborated with Drexel University’s School of Education to create a free art App, Keys to the Collection, now downloadable from iTunes and playable on any Apple device. The game is targeted for ages 7-14, and allows for a variety of playable activities, whether at home or at the Barnes. Players can unlock the mysteries of the collection by turning a visit to the Barnes into a game. The App invites players to go on different art adventures to find the elusive gold key, which wins the game and unlocks a special room where players create their own personalized art gallery. Keys to the Collection is made possible by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and is sponsored by Subaru of America, Inc.

The official launch of the Keys to the Collection will take place on Sunday, September 7 from 1 - 4 pm. The day is also a Free First Sunday presented by PECO when admission to the Barnes is free.  Youth and their families who attend will have the first opportunity to try the App in the Barnes galleries. During the launch day, there will be music, activities with local artists who connect art and technology in hands-on projects, and presentations from key participants in the design and implementation of the App. 

With dazzling 3-d immersive graphics and plenty of action, Keys to the Collection creates a virtual environment of the Barnes Galleries. Three game levels turn playable characters into art inspectors with exciting encounters that have players jumping into paintings and completing an assortment of art missions. Players accumulate keys to enter different realms, solve a variety of mysteries, and add works of art to a growing portfolio.  Players earn badges and points to chart the thrilling quest for the gold key which allows them to unlock a special room, create their own art gallery, and win the game.

The App turns a visit into a game or can be used to explore the Barnes virtually from anywhere.  The game is free in the iTunes store and can be played everywhere in the world. Visitors who play while at the Barnes find extra bonus features in the game such as “AR” (augmented reality).  The Keys to the Collection App is downloadable from the Barnes Foundation website and also from the iTunes store under “Keys to the Collection.”

“The Barnes Foundation wanted to create this App to expand educational and fun activities for school-age children,” said Margaret (Peg) Zminda, the Barnes Foundation’s Acting Director.  “Keys to the Collection is delightful and engaging while also using cutting-edge technology. We expect that the App will reach many audiences who might be unable to otherwise visit the Barnes Foundation in person, which is consistent with our aim of making the Barnes accessible to a broader audience.  We are pleased to have partnered with local technology consultants at Drexel University to create this first-of-its-kind App for an institution in Philadelphia. We are proud to continue the tradition of Dr. Albert Barnes’ experimental styles of education by entering this new realm.”

“Museums today are looking to engage audiences where they are – and often that’s mobile. We hope the Barnes Foundation's App gets the collection into more people’s hands and minds as they play and interact with it through Keys to the Collection,” said Dennis Scholl, vice president of arts for Knight Foundation.

Blake Bradford, Barnes Foundation Bernard C. Watson Director of Education stated, “The Barnes wanted to reach and teach young audiences with fun, original technologies that push our institution  into creatively different territories, utilizing our world-renowned art collection and establish educational methodology. To us, that meant designing and developing a next-generation App for 7 to 14 year-olds, and we are thrilled with the result.”

“Our goal in designing the App was to engage young people in the arts, and to encourage them to explore their own creativity, interact with other users about art and strengthen problem-solving skills,” said Drexel’s Aroutis Foster, PhD, who oversaw the App’s design and development. “But we also hope that the game system will have a broader impact on museum education for young learners, and that the design of game-based learning environments will facilitate creativity and transformative learning experiences.”

The Creators

Lynn Berkowitz, MFA, joined the Barnes Foundation in 2011 as the first coordinator of family programs. She instituted a game-based learning approach to developing and implementing family programs and produced an award-winning family audio app with Acoustiguide and art gallery kit with designers Glue + Paper Workshop for the opening of the Barnes’ Philadelphia campus. The slate of creative family programs, including pajama tours for preschoolers, have attracted new audiences to the Foundation. Berkowitz reached out to Drexel University to design the App, and served as the Barnes’ project manager throughout its creation. 

Aroutis Foster, PhD, teaches and conducts research on the design, integration, and implementation of immersive digital environments for learning at Drexel University’s School of Education. Dr. Foster’s research focuses on the design, pedagogic, and assessment of games for learning. He examines innovative ways to use technologies for seamless learning. He is the founder of the Drexel Learning Games Network and head of Drexel’s GLIDE Lab

Jen Katz-Buonincontro, PhD, is Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership in the School of Education at Drexel University. Her teaching, research, and publications focus on creativity and learning: problem perception and solving in leaders, leadership development through the arts, and applications of aesthetic theory. Projects include adolescent identity exploration through drawing in game-based learning environments, and the assessment of student creativity in the arts and other academic subjects. 

The App was designed and developed by a team of Drexel faculty, students, and recent alumni over the course of nine months.

What’s The Storyline?

Dr. Albert C. Barnes is going on an art tour and left Fidèle, his cherished little black-and-white dog, in charge of the Foundation. Dr. Barnes asked Fidèle to have a new ensemble—or art display—ready when he gets back. Dr. Barnes leaves and Fidèle realizes that something terrible has happened. The keys to the collection are missing and some of the paintings have lost their elements: lines, shapes, and colors.  He needs help in getting everything back into place quickly. That’s where players come in. Fidèle is the guide and gives clues. Players will also assist him in restoring the art that was left in his care. He also helps to create a new ensemble.

How To Play?

First, every player gets to create an avatar and customize their character with gender, hair and skin color, clothing, etc. Then each player becomes an art inspector and looks to find the keys to the collection.  The participant can become immersed in the Annenberg Court and six rooms of the Collection Gallery. There are four different game play experiences:

  • ArtSee: jump into worlds inspired by paintings from the Barnes Foundation to restore their lines, shapes, and colors
  • ArtDash: race along art tracks to the matching paintings at the end
  • ArtPuzzle: solve puzzles by rearranging parts of paintings into their proper spots
  • Ensemble Creator: design an ensemble and share them online

During play, AR (augmented reality) is a feature available to players who are on location at the Barnes.  Finally, the person can create a log-in to save their character, ensembles, badges, and points.  

Keys to the Collection is made possible by support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and is sponsored by Subaru of America, Inc. Additional support was provided by Drexel University’s School of Education, Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation, the McLean Contributionship, and the Glenn A. Haldan Charitable Foundation.

About the Barnes Foundation
The Barnes Foundation is located at 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. General admission tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for seniors, $10 for youth/student tickets, and children (0-5) are free.  The Barnes is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday: 10 am–6 pm, Friday 10 am–9 pm, closed Tuesdays.

The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to "promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture." The Barnes has one of the finest collections of post-impressionist and early modern paintings, with extensive holdings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, and Giorgio de Chirico; American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin, and Maurice Prendergast; old master paintings; African sculpture; Native American ceramics, jewelry and textiles; American paintings and decorative arts; and antiquities from the Mediterranean and Asia.

The Barnes Foundation's Art and Aesthetics programs engage diverse audiences. These programs, on-site, online, and in Philadelphia communities, advance the mission through progressive interdisciplinary teaching and learning.

In May 2012, the Barnes Foundation opened a new facility on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. The Philadelphia campus is home to the Foundation’s world-famous art collection. Changing exhibitions are presented by the Barnes in its 5,000-square-foot Roberts Gallery.

About Drexel University’s School of Education
Drexel University’s School of Education produces leaders who affect change in the classroom, in administration and in research and policy.  The undergraduate program is the only teacher certification in the nation that includes a co-op related to the student's major. Graduate programs develop leaders with expertise to solve complex problems in various areas of education. For more information, visit

About the Drexel GLIDE Lab
The Drexel GLIDE Lab is a new games research headquarters for Dr. Aroutis Foster, Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies, and his team of researchers, graphic designers and programmers. Dr. Foster teaches and conducts research on the theoretical and practical Application of immersive digital environments for human cognition, behavior, and learning. His broad research interests focus on technology and learning through projective reflection. GLIDE lab research aims to explore the learning process, motivation to learn, and identity change in students using immersive digital technologies to impact formal and informal learning. For more information, visit


For more information
Cari Feiler Bender, Relief Communications, LLC

Jan Rothschild, Senior Vice President for Communications, Barnes Foundation

Alex McKechnie, News Officer, Drexel University


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