I love taking my kids to art museums. I would sound so much more impressive if I said my kids loved art museums, too. But, puh-lease! Most of the time it’s a fight to get there and we rarely last more than 90 minutes including snack time. Still, I really love it and I will not stop.
Here are my reasons why:
- I love art. Yup, who cares what the kids like! Sometimes they just need to do what we like. How do you think I feel about the thousands of hours I’ve spent at the playground? Also, I should maybe add that I just finished watching the movie Bad Moms so I’m feeling justified with my self-centered rationale.
- Audio guides rock! I used to believe that audio guides were kind of cheating but now I really appreciate them. The voices and stories always engage my kids in the artwork far more successfully than I ever could. I especially love audio guides that are geared toward young audiences and those that let you choose which artworks you want to hear about (like at the new SF MOMA.)
- Art and creativity are essential to life. Maybe parents have always felt this way but, to me, life is so full of things to do, attend to, take care of and worry about that art sometimes seems like an indulgence or something that would be great to do if we had more time. I don’t want my kids to see art as a luxury or as someone else’s area of interest. I want them to have art in their lives.
- Looking at art nurtures our own creativity. When we look at art, we wonder—-we question how it was done, why it was made and how we might express ourselves similarly. When museums invite kids to do art activities around a work or a theme, children get to practice being creative, too. And when we leave museums, our conversations are often about the artists and their processes. (The picture of our shadows on the wall was taken after we left a recent photography exhibit and we were playing around with my phone camera.)
- It’s a good rainy day thing to do. Well, we could stay home in our pajamas all day or we rally for a little culture!
- Art shows children that there isn’t just one way to do something. Each artist’s approach is proof that personal expression is limitless and unique. It’s also an opportunity to see that not everything is our piece of cake. We like somethings and not others but each approach is valued for its boldness, effort and mere existence.
- Artistic expression takes many forms. I want my kids to know that there are different ways to see things and different ways to express our thoughts and feelings. We don’t always need to use our words.
- You never know. I love how an hour spent looking at art almost always surprises us. We are constantly seeing things we’ve never seen before and sometimes it is just what we need. Recently, I went to see an exhibit of the photographer Diane Arbus. I love her work but that day, the most important thing I saw was an almost unnoticeable quote from the artist painted high up on the gallery wall. The words were so meaningful to me as a mother who often feels like I’m failing miserably and to my daughter who tends to expect perfection from herself. I know we will both come back to these words:
“The thing that’s important to know is that you never know. You’re always sort of feeling your way.” –Diane Arbus
There are great art museums all over the world and many have programs, guides, or tours that are geared toward children of various ages. Additionally, there are several companies (including Paris Muse and Context) that offer museum tours that include games, scavenger hunts, and art activities specifically meant to teach and engage children.
The truth is that, at the risk of sounding pretentious, my kids are starting to like art museums, too. Now, if only I could stay awake through the symphony.