So I popped in to the Columbus Museum of Art last week, curious to see how life in the construction zone is going and, boy, was I surprised to see the steady stream of parents and kids! Even with a big chunk of the Museum under wraps and/or dust because of its $80 million renovation and new-wing construction project (that will last until 2013), the staff there has upped the ante by thinking way outside the box with family-friendly activities to draw families in.

And, oh yeah, that free admission thing is pretty cool, too. Their members donated enough money to make it possible for all of July and August to be free for everyone every day (not just Sundays like it usually is).

The "Fur, Fins and Feathers" exhibit is an especially creative re-arrangement of pieces from the CMA's permanent collection: All of the artwork has to do with animals, plus there are activity stations (with books to read, puppets to play with) throughout the museum galleries that are open. A lot of hands-on, art-education programs are on the schedule, too, which you can find on our Columbus Parent calendar.

And out in the garden, not only do they have sculptor Joan Wobst's donated chess set with character pieces from "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" displayed out in the garden (it's beyond cool-looking), but also a chess set that kids can play with (the pieces are waist high, just like the Wobst collection which is for touching with our eyes, not our hands).

And when all else fails and you just want to inhale a little cultural inspiration via the Internet, check out Museum Executive Director Nannette Maciejunes' blog. She has a great way of describing art and her quests to find great art, with the text often accompanied by vivid pictures -- like from a recent trip to the Czech Republic where puppetry is high art!

The Columbus Museum of Art is located at 480 E. Broad St., Downtown. Free admission and free parking in the back (the north side of the museum). Call 614-221-6801 for more information.

-- Jane Hawes, Editor of the new Columbus Parent