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We celebrated Christopher’s birthday with a family trip to a local art museum. If you know us in real life, you know that my husband and I did the bulk of our dating at an art gallery, and that when we have the chance to visit a new area, one of the things we’re most likely to look for are spaces where we can see art. We are also the kind of family who thinks it’s good fun to gather around the table, each with his own supplies, and create.
Yes, we turned heads before we even made our way into the museum. Yes, I was asked if we were a school group. (On a Saturday?) Yes, there were a couple of pieces we avoided due to content. Yes, we had to remind a certain 2 year-old to use his inside voice a couple of times. But folks, don’t let any of this scare you off from experiencing art in a formal context with your family. Choose your gallery and exhibit wisely, know your audience, and give it a try!
Before you go Call ahead and see if the gallery offers resources for visiting children. If not, grab a small backpack and include:
a small pack of colored pencils
a sketchbook for each child
some drawing pencils (regular ones will do in a pinch)
If you’re seeing a specific artist or work from a specific style, include a guide or printed wikipedia page for reference.
Or, make your own “treasure hunt” cards. Scanning the gallery’s website, locate pieces that you want children to find. Themes are good (animals, artifacts, artists, shapes, colors). Print clues onto large index cards and see how many you can find during your visit.
Read a book, such as Looking at Pictures, in preparation for seeing all the art on display. Go over rules for galleries: library voices, no touching, no running, etc.
After your visit Keep the conversation — and creativity — going. If your children don’t already have a nice selection of art supplies, make it a point to get a collection going. We favor the real thing over kids’ versions, simply because they usually offer better results, stronger color, and more options to get the ideas in their heads onto paper. You’ll need to offer more oversight than you might with the washable versions, and the monetary investment is more but trust me, it’s worth it. (And the products usually last much, much longer!) Try these “tougher” soft pastels, (don’t forget watercolor paper!)
For your library Pick up these books to bring the gallery home.
“13” Series 13 Artists, Art Techniques, Movements … and a host more.
Art Fraud Detective, Spot the Differences Book 1: Art Masterpiece Mysteries, and Art Detective: Spot the Difference are fun ways to help children learn styles and pay attention to details.
Painters: Masters of Western Art is much more fun than flashcards.
Art Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Adventures in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper and Mixed Media is an off-beat art project guide for homeschoolers.