smART Families is a group of families dedicated to art education for children at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Usual activities include art workshops, movie nights, exhibition-related family parties and excursions to other art museums – all with their children.

But once a year, smART parents enjoy a “date night” at the Museum without the kids. This year’s party, called “Renaissance to Rococo Rendezvous,” provided the 90 participating parents a sophisticated and fun night out. It also raised money to support the Museum’s Free Family Days, community events that benefit more than 5,000 people a year.

“To have a private party in the Museum with your friends is an extraordinary treat,” said Ted Simmons, a member of the smART Families steering committee. “You really get to interact with the art in an intimate way – it’s less stuffy than a visit on a Sunday afternoon.”

The party revolved around the Museum’s highly acclaimed exhibition “Renaissance to Rococo: Masterpieces from the Collection of the Wadsworth Athenaeum of Art,” a prestigious array of European paintings spanning the 15th through 18th centuries. Santa Barbara represents the exhibition’s only Western venue. It is on view until May 28.

Some partygoers participated in a scavenger hunt in the galleries and “make art” sessions, designing their own still-life works of art with the help of museum teachers. All enjoyed the artwork on display, complemented by the exotic cheeses, decadent desserts and a special blue cocktail, “Rapture.”

“Although we’re tireless when it comes to bringing our children to the Museum, the smART Families do like to sneak away and have a little grown-up fun once in awhile,” said steering committee member Lisa Wolf.

Now in its third year, smART Families, which costs $250 year to join, continues to be a big success. “Being a part of smART Families is a great way for parents and children to learn about art together,” said steering committee chair Laura Shelburne, who fondly recalls time spent as a child in museums with her parents. “We want our children to feel as if the museum is their living room – we want them to be comfortable there and cultivate a lifelong love of art.”

Museum Board Chair Patrick Stone loves the “fun and enthusiastic energy” the group brings to the museum. “It’s very important that we strive to attract a younger demographic to the museum,” he said. “smART Families is the ideal group to help develop the next generation of art lovers.”

An important aspect of the organization is that members’ contributions support the wide range of art education programs at the Museum of Art. smART Families enabled the museum to produce a family guide to the permanent collection and to revamp the Children’s Gallery.

The smART Families steering committee members are: Hilary Doubleday, Kisa Heyer, Jill Levinson, Amy Mayfield, Toni McClintock, Mary Morouse, Lizzie Peus, Julia Rodgers, Laura Shelburne, Ted Simmons, Garrett Speirs, Lisa Wolf and Megan Yager. All attended the party with their spouses.

Other smART Families parents seen appreciating the art included: Ella and Scott Brittingham; Susan and Palmer Jackson; Kristin and Eric Peus; Meghan and Robert Stoll; Lisa and Brian Babcock; Nancy and Kevin O’Connor; and Tiffany and Frank Foster.

Sponsors for the event were: Babcock Winery, C’est Cheese, Classic Party Rentals, Finestra Caffe, Jessica Foster Confections, Mary Jane Photography, Montecito Confections, Richard Rice, Rose Story Farm and Straight Up Cocktail Service.

For more information about smART Families, call Karen Kawaguchi, at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art at 884-6428.