When I was a young teenager, I visited the Museum of Modern Art in NYC for the first with my family. I clearly recall standing next to my father, in front of a painting titled Red Bird (not to be confused with The Red Bird, by Marc Chagall). It was a tremendous white canvas with a single pin sized red dot in the center.
We starred at it seriously.
We got as close as we could without touching it, thinking we must be missing something.
We looked at each other, trying to stifle our laughter.
Then we turned to view another exhibit. This one was a sculpture on the floor. It was a brown lumpy mess (I won’t say exactly what it looked like), about a foot high. Moments later, noticing our laughter that was quickly becoming rowdy and uncontrollable, my mother ushered us to the next gallery.
Did this foster an interest in modern art? Do I still laugh in the face of a painting or sculpture that makes little sense to me? Yes. And yes, because my dad and I had a blast at that exhibit. And we calmed down in the next room, thinking ahhh as we were surrounded by Monet’s Water Lillies. My love of impressionism was born.
When should we start exposing out children to fine art? My answer is as soon as they show a spark of interest. You don’t have to live near a big city to wander an art museum (although that is great fun), you can open a book or surf the net. Or you can visit a small local museum or art store for inspiration.
Give your kids the opportunity to appreciate fine art in addition to hands-on activities. My 1st grader, for example, loves to create little masterpieces using pointillism techniques. She learned it on an episode pf Blue’s Room (so I can’t take credit for the exposure). My oldest loves to sculpt and build with things found around the house. She’s started painting with acrylics and loves it, but last year all she wanted to do was design clothes. I have to remind myself often that creativity needs room to exapand and change over the years as our kids find new mediums to explore.
To get started, I suggest exploring artistic techniques using a book designed just for kids. It’s titled Discovering Great Artists:Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters. The book contains more than 150 activities with clear instruction and teaches the styles, works, and techniques of the great masters from Van Gogh to Rembrandt, and more. It also includes full page color photos of projects to be tackled.
Get out and visit an art gallery or museum if you can, scan your local library for picture books about artists and let your children play with art supplies until their little hearts are content (and their little hands are a masterpiece of their own).
Have a great suggestion for enjoying art with your children? Please share! Tell me all about it in the comments!