For parents rushing to and fro amid myriad activities and shopping this month, seven words from the Bakersfield Museum of Art will ring louder than any Christmas bell:
"It's free, free, free! Everything is free."
That's the promise BMoA marketing director Matt Munoz makes about the museum's first Family Day on Sunday, which will feature art projects, an elf search, entertainment and refreshments.
Although the museum has hosted other family events (and free admission days on the third Friday of each month), this gathering is the first for Christmastime.
"What they did before was not as elaborate as this. This is the first one with a holiday theme -- with the entertainment, the activities."
Running from noon to 4 p.m., the day features nonstop performances staggered primarily between the museum's banquet room and Chevron Gallery. Multiple locations allow the next act to set up in advance of their start time.
Performances will range from classic Christmas sets -- David Zent with his Spotlight Theatre "Holly Follies" cast, the Bakersfield High School Carolers and the Bakersfield Community Gospel Choir -- to a pair that will mix things up.
"(Local duo) Truxton Mile, they've never done a Christmas show but they're going to do a Christmas acoustic set along with songs from their new album. And Mariachi Juvenil Mestizo, they don't do a lot of holiday shows but they'll do 'Feliz Navidad' and other classics. Those are combinations, not all Christmas music."
Tapping into the holidays is a great way to present what the museum has to offer, Munoz said.
"We pride ourselves on our arts education. ... We would really like to inform a lot of the families about the art programs. The classrooms, the programs and the facilities. That has been my top priority, to get the families involved," he said of community outreach efforts he has made since taking over marketing in September.
Young guests can enjoy a sample of that education with a trio of art stations: painting using a "golf ball roll" technique to replicate snow; a "glowing" Christmas lights painting with oil pastels; and designing a paper sweater for Artie the Elf for a photo opportunity.
"The kids will design the sweater on paper and we will attach it to Artie and they can take a photo with him," BMoA instructor Emily Becerra wrote via email.
"The idea came from those funny Christmas sweaters that everyone wears during the holidays."
The BMoA elf is the focus of another children's activity as part of a museum search. Paper cutouts of the elf will be hidden through the galleries and children are encouraged to count them all.
The activities are for children of all ages, although those under 7 should have an adult assisting them.
All the museum's instructors will be on hand to help as will volunteers, and Becerra said they can open a second classroom based on the response.
Refreshments will be offered, including hot cocoa and cookies, and the galleries are open for viewing, with exhibits featuring the works of contemporary artists Roland Petersen, Karen Shapiro and Robert Townsend and large-scale paintings by Alfredo Arreguin. The sculpture garden will be open and out front is something for the adults, courtesy of the event's sponsor.
Jim Burke Ford will have up to six Lincoln vehicles, including standard and hybrid MKZs, to test drive, Munoz said. "And for everyone who test-drives the car, they'll give a donation to the museum."
Hoping to draw about 1,000 people on Sunday, Munoz said the event will likely become an annual event, much like the museum's Altares de Familia in November.
"Everybody is in a joyous mood (around the holidays). ... This is rounding things up for the year, something nice and fun for everybody."