We all have visions of taking our kids to the Art museum. There we are standing looking at a Renaissance masterpiece and our children are discussing the finer points of the play of light on the Madonna's face. And yet, for those of us who are brave (read: foolish) enough to venture in to those hallowed halls of beauty with our children, the fantasy of perfect culture with little ones is often shattered by one piercing, bored shriek after another.
So, what is a parent to do?
Do we give up on introducing the beauty of art to our children? Do we just wait until they are old enough to appreciate the masterpieces (and hope that somehow, with out any previous exposure, the appreciate what they see)?
No, no I say, we do not wait, we do not keep our kids from those muted corridors simply because we are afraid to be embarrassed. In reality, the fault with the dream above lies with you, not your children.
Children are children, and it is our job as a parents to help them learn how to behave in our grown up world. Luckily, children have always been children and most adults will understand your trials. In fact, some of them have worked to make it easier for you, like the dedicated staff and volunteers at the NC Museum of Art.
A simple 6 step process may be all you need for the beginning of artful bliss in your family.
Step 1: Let go of that beautiful bubble described above. It's never going to happen, and that's ok, instead just be prepared to be happy if you don't end up paying to replace one of those masterpieces.
Step 2: Go to child friendly events. The NC Museum of Art has a ton of child friendly events. There are movies on the lawn, art days when a trained professional will help your kids begin their art education, and my personal favorite, special exhibit openings.
For instance when the Temples and Tombs from Ancient Egypt exhibit opened up, there was one night where the kids and I could go, color mummy paper dolls, write on papyrus, and have our names made in Hieroglyphics. On top of that, we got to tour the exhibit for free. Do I feel like this coloring extravaganza dumbed down the art for my kids....heck no!! The paper dolls had layers of clothes that were historically accurate, the hieroglyphics are what people pay a lot of money to view in Egypt, and the architectural features we toured were a good teether for sculptural art.
Step 3: Go to the Museum ALOT. Do not expect to see everything you want to see in a day, or two days. The museum is conveniently broken up in to countries, genres, time periods, geographical locations, etc. It's a road map to breaking it down in to small, easy to digest bites for kids. Not only do you get to learn about impressionism, surrealism, and African art separately, but you have more time to slow down, and point out those interesting hooks that will make your child a life long Art lover.
Step 4: Remember, what you love about Art may not be what your kids love, and that's ok. Maybe you can't wait to see the Rodin sculpture garden, and they are chomping at the bit to look at Renaissance German paintings, go see the paintings. Find out why they like it, and try to find that in every exhibit you go to. Don't fight your kids interests, use them to help them expand what they appreciate.
Step 5: Take advantage of EVERY opportunity, visit the sculpture trail and get your daily dose of art and exercise. Buy a book of post cards at the gift shop and frame them at home to keep the images fresh in your kids minds. Carry a plain black frame for your kids to find their own landscapes and scenes in the every day world. If some busybody wonders why your kid is staring at that tree across the street through a picture frame, you can proudly explain they are a budding art lover and watch the envy glow in their eyes.
Step 6: Quite possibly the most important step, have fun. If the Museum is stressful for you, it will be stressful for the kids and they will not become art lovers. Relax, take in the beauty of the art, and enjoy yourself and your children in this beautiful place and moment. I can't promise that these steps will give you a future Picasso or Da Vinci, but at least it will give them (and you) a good place to start. The love of beautiful things is inherent in all people, all you have to do is make it easy for your kids to let go and bring out that inner nature.
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~This is a guest post written by Cat!