Skip to content Skip to footer

Community Engagement and Family Programs

At the Barnes, we believe that education should be based on social interaction and personal experience. The arts foster this type of learning for people at every stage of their lives and should be accessible to all. Through our community engagement and family programs, we strive to share the benefits of authentic arts experiences with communities across Philadelphia, enriching the lives of diverse audiences both in their respective communities and on-site. Working with community groups, city agencies, artists, and social service organizations, our programs integrate the Barnes into the larger cultural fabric of Philadelphia and reach across the city and beyond to break down traditional barriers to participation in the arts, meeting people where they live, work, study, and play.

Community Partnerships

Puentes a las Artes / Bridges to the Arts
In partnership with Puentes de Salud
Puentes a las Artes / Bridges to the Arts is an art-based biliteracy program for ELL/ESL early learners (ages 3–5) from South Philadelphia’s growing Latinx immigrant community. Piloted in 2017, in partnership with Puentes de Salud—an organization that promotes the health and wellness of Philadelphia’s Latinx population—the program is a comprehensive, collaborative approach to empower our most vulnerable communities’ early learners and their families, by supporting the formative skills they need to succeed in school and at home to secure a bright and equitable future.

This program offers deep engagement for early learners, supports parents/caregivers and older siblings as every child’s first teachers at home, and creates safe pathways for families to engage with the Barnes collection and other learning resources. Programming includes weekly biliteracy afterschool classes at Southwark Community School in English and Spanish, bilingual family workshops and tours of the Barnes, and family field trips to PECO Free First Sunday Family Days at the Barnes. During the pandemic, our community educators engaged students with an alternative hybrid program of interactive virtual classes, home deliveries of art kits, and prerecorded video storytimes.

Barnes West
In partnership with People’s Emergency Center, West Philadelphia artists, and neighborhood agencies
In 2018, the Barnes partnered with the People’s Emergency Center CDC (PECCDC) to build on its LoLa 38 creative placemaking project and further expand arts programming in West Philadelphia. This partnership has evolved into Barnes West, which aims to enrich lives and communities through shared art experiences and access. This collaboration brings West Philadelphia residents, business owners, and artists together in celebrating culture, creativity, and community voice—highlighting the arts and cultural life of our city.

Part of Barnes West, monthly Barnes Presents! events are a revolving canvas for West Philly artists and performers to engage community members with public works of creative expression, ideas, aspirations, and voice. Most events take place at the Bank (3750 Lancaster Avenue), a former bank repurposed by the PECCDC as a community space. Events are currently offered outdoors with social distancing or remotely in virtual spaces.

  • Barnes West Everyday Places Artist Partnerships, launched in spring 2021, provide opportunities for West Philadelphia artists to partner with neighborhood businesses and sites—including grocery stores, restaurants, laundromats, public parks, and community organizations—to build interactive, participatory projects that engage with the site and residents. The program creates new spaces for West Philadelphia residents to experience art that offers inspiration and promotes ​hope and healing.
  • Barnes West Neighborhood Art Activations are sparks of creativity in the pulse of West Philadelphia neighborhoods. These informal creative activities take place at West Philadelphia residential complexes, food pantries, and housing sites, and include painting and craft workshops and the distribution of art supplies and activity sheets.

Community Initiatives

Virtual Reality Project with Community Connectors
Our virtual reality project, launched in 2018, brings the Barnes collection beyond the walls of the institution to connect with people where they live. Essential to this project are Community Connectors, who transform the virtual gallery experience into lively group conversations, sharing ideas and guided art observations. Community visits with virtual reality headsets take place throughout the city, including Free Library branches, senior centers, parks and recreation centers, K–12 schools, and community partner sites. Participants are also invited to join their connector for a group visit to the Barnes for a tailored tour of the collection. These tours are free, and fully escorted, with connectors accompanying participants throughout their trip.

Early Learner Summer Pods
The Barnes Foundation oversees Early Learner Summer Pods, an educational initiative launched in 2021 in collaboration with some of Philadelphia’s leading cultural agencies. The program supports early childhood development in low-income communities where the global health pandemic has significantly disrupted systems of support for children (5 and under) and their families. Taking place in parks and rec centers, Philly Playstreets, community centers, and cultural agency sites, the program engages young learners and their families with outdoor activities, storytime and other literacy activities, art making, and environmental workshops. Learning kits are also distributed at no cost.

Other members of the Early Learner Summer Pod network include the Academy for Natural Sciences, the Clay Studio, Fairmount Water Works, Fleisher Art Memorial, Please Touch Museum, Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, and WHYY.

Art for All Community Pass, STAMP, ACCESS
Creating access for our most vulnerable populations and building sustained, inclusive relationships with communities are important to the Barnes. Participants in our community engagement and family programs—as well as our public programs, school partnerships, and adult education scholarships—receive an Art for All Community Pass. The pass gives the holder and three guests free admission to the Barnes Foundation for up to a year and special discounts on dining and shopping. Philadelphia high school students with valid student ID may visit the Barnes for free through STAMP (Students in Museums in Philly), an Art-Reach initiative. ACCESS cardholders receive free admission simply by showing their card and have the opportunity to receive an Art for All Community Pass.

Family Programs

Family programs at the Barnes offer opportunities for families of young children to participate in art experiences that are interactive and spark curiosity and discovery. On-site programs include hands-on art making, storytelling, and gallery visits. And Barnes at Home online offers families plenty of downloadable activity sheets for art and imagination remotely.

For more information about our programs, please contact

Community Engagement and Family Programs Sponsors

Community engagement programs are made possible, in part, by generous support from the William Penn Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

The Virtual Reality Project and all digital initiatives are made possible by generous support from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of the Knight Center for Digital Innovation in Audience Engagement at the Barnes, and Betsy Z. and Edward E. Cohen.