Zentrum Paul Klee Bern and Children’s Art Classes

Zentrum Paul Klee is a museum dedicated to the art of Paul Klee, a Swiss-German painter influenced by expressionism, cubism and surrealism. Besides being an interesting cultural experience, the museum offers a variety of activities for children, which I describe below. My kids particularly enjoyed Open Studio, a one hour art class where they learned to imitate the line art of Paul Klee. I appreciate the extra effort they make to interest children in art and make them comfortable at the museum. It’s a good option for a rainy day or any other time you need a bit of culture.

Location:   Bern Switzerland
Address: Monument im Fruchtland 3, 3000 Bern
Car: ~1hr45 from Zurich
Train: ~1hr25 from Zurich
Open: Tues-Sun, 10:00-17:00
Cost (2015): Adults CHF 20, Child 6-16 CHF 7. Family discount tickets available.
Audio guide included in entrance fee.
Swiss Museum Pass and SBB-RailAway discounts apply.
More info: www.zpk.org

Overview

The museum has several sections. Upstairs is the Paul Klee collection and a special collection room. Downstairs you’ll find the children’s museum and classrooms. Your entrance ticket covers all sections.

If you want to take one of the Open Studio art classes (for children and adults), book this first thing while buying tickets. They don’t take advance reservations but the classes can fill up quickly. The one hour class is offered three times a day: 12:00, 14:00, and 16:00. In 2015, it cost 15/person, children 4 to 8 must be accompanied by an adult. More details about Open Studio below.

Getting There

Use the below map to drive to Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern. You can see the distinctive building from the freeway as you drive by. There are a few metered parking lots next to the museum. It’s easy to reach by public transportation, perhaps even faster than driving. Bus 12 takes you directly from Bern Hauptbahnhof to the museum.

Museum

The museum itself is self-explanatory. In the main space, you’ll see work from Paul Klee and other modern artists. I think this art is quite accessible to children because many of the shapes forms are childlike. Of course, it might inspire the old cliche: “This is art??? I could do that!” But this could inspire a good discussion about what is art.

Here are a few of our favorites. You can see more examples of Paul Klee’s work on Artsy’s Paul Klee page.

When we went in July 2014, the museum provided a little brochure for children and colored pencils, so the children could make their own drawings inspired by what they saw in the museum.

They also had this videos with line art and dancers combined. I’m sure the installations change over time. This just gives you an idea of what types of things this museum does.

They have a special exhibition space, which rotates content from other modern and contemporary artists. They also have an outdoor space with sculptures, but since it was raining, we didn’t visit that part.

Classes

The art classes are organized through Kindermuseum Creaviva, the art studios for interactive art education housed within Zentrum Paul Klee. Creaviva has three main programs:

Open Studio is a one hour hands-on art class, offered three times a day. They do not take advance reservations, but you must book a spot at the museum on the day. Spots can go quickly, so book when buying your entrance tickets. I saw several stressed parents trying to finagle a spot as our class was starting.

Every month they focus on a different aspect or technique used in Paul Klee’s art. When we went, the theme was line art. The kids made their own paint pens, by cutting a pen nib out of aluminum cans and taping it to a wood stick. It sounds weird but it was really cool. They painted with that and by dipping chives in the paint to create lines of different thicknesses. Simple, but effective.

The class was full of both children and adults, with varying amounts of creativity and talent. But I think in the end, everyone had a good time. Each participant could frame one of their art pieces in a mat, as shown below, and take home all their art.

5 Franc Studio is a table with art supplies at the far end of the Interactive Exhibition space. They display a sample art piece with instructions and provide the supplies and tools needed to create it. Guests are asked to deposit CHF 5 in the collection box for each object they create. When we were there, they had a project with letter stencils that mimicked one of the art pieces in the museum.

The Interactive exhibition is simply a big room with various stuff that children can create/play with. It’s free with admission to the museum. At first, I was a little disappointed, as I expected a room full of art supplies. When we went there, the room was full of a few hundred of these hinged things – what would you call them? Collapsible measuring sticks? It took awhile for my kids to figure out what to do with them, but by the time we had to leave, they were completely engrossed and didn’t want to go. What’s in that room changes over time. So go without expectations.

Cafe, Lockers, Etc.

The whole museum is stroller-accessible, with elevator access when there are stairs. There are lockers and toilets downstairs. Food is not allowed inside the museum, but you could store your picnic in the lockers and eat outside. You can go in and out of the museum, just showing your ticket.

There is a small cafe (shown below) with a very limited menu. It’s ok for a snack, but not great for a meal. There aren’t typical kid menu items and the sandwiches were too complex for my kids’ palettes. When we were there, the cafe was packed even though the museum wasn’t. It took a long time to order and to get our food. Worse, some of the options sold out before we could order. I really wished I had brought our lunch that day.

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