Art appreciation and kids (and the fine art of letting go)
The buzz of conversation filled the air, creative canapés lined the silver trays, and a lady in red crooned sultry songs into the night, but we were here for the art. Last night my daughter and I attended our first art gallery Christmas party at Brick City Gallery in downtown Ocala (Florida).
Introducing your children to the world of art appreciation can be a tricky matter. I toured the Appleton Museum in Silver Springs with them when they were young, but they wanted to run around outside and splash in fountains instead. We tried the Co-Op Gallery on Amelia Island, and again, they were more interested in the knick knack shops on the main street. I’ve dragged them into other galleries, much to their chagrin (and mine), and then one day I just let it all go- as you have to do as a parent at times. I seemed to be upsetting both them and myself.The artist in me has gazed longingly at the entrance to the Harn Museum of Art, but led the children to the butterfly atrium in the Florida Natural History Museum instead. I decided to save the art galleries for when I was alone. Sometimes art appreciation can be a solitary road.
Having been dragged through stately homes and botanical gardens in my own youth, I could appreciate their resistance. “You can take a horse to the pond, but you can’t force it to drink”, is an old saying, but that horse probably gave the farmer a very hard time if he didn’t want to go to that pond in the first place! I decided I would bide my time, until they were older, wiser or more into art.
Had my own future as an artist been defined by the places my parents dragged me? It was in the Flagler Museum in St. Augustine where I first noticed a Currier & Ives print, but was bored to death by the glassworks. On a family trip to Pittsburgh I saw my first Monet. But had I not already had that inkling of an artist within, my eyes might have been drawn to something completely different- or my own feet trying to escape! So there bodes the question, can you force your children to appreciate art?
But yesterday, I saw the invitation lying there on the table, and I thought, why not give it another go? I tentatively asked my daughter if she would like to go to a party at an art gallery.
“Will there be food?” She asked.
“Yes, of course.” I handed her the official invite, just so she wouldn’t think I was tricking her.
She carefully scrutinized the card and then nodded her assent.
We dressed for the occasion, and headed out into the night. There was wine (we didn’t drink it), there was food (very tasty) and there were a lot of people that we did not know. So my daughter and I sampled the treats and checked out the art on the wall.
I let her wander alone, watching her gravitate towards the artwork that she preferred- (and the deviled eggs & cheese skewers). Later we compared our favorites and discussed why they were our personal favorites. Sweet and simple. There was no cajoling, no arguments nor rolling of eyes. And when we had enough, we bade our farewells and left to check out the lights on the square and share an ice cream.
As we drove off into the darkness, I wondered if this little slice of art was the start to something bigger. But I won’t start planning our day out at the Harn Museum of Art just yet.
Fostering Art Appreciation in Your Child
- Take it slow.
- Traditional Art Museums tend to be- er traditional! Meaning no shouting or even loud talking or running around. (Yeah, we were told to “hush” in such a place). Either wait until your children are older and more mature to venture there or check and see if they have any kid-friendly days. The Appleton hosts kid activities one Saturday a month.
- Outdoor installations are fantastic! For one, they are outside! We’ve checked out the modern art around Tuscawilla Park in Ocala and also the copper statues (visiting exhibit) around Lake Mirror in Lakeland (FL). They have fantastic modern art all over the city of Ottawa (Canada).
- Try a small gallery first. Local art galleries are a good way to introduce your child to art, and they are free, so if you spend five minutes in one, it’s not a bust. Gatlinburg (TN) has some good local art galleries. The Thomas Kincaid Gallery in Pigeon Forge (TN) is fascinating, even to children. The Wyland Gallery at Disney Boardwalk in Orlando (FL) is great too.
- Visit an art show. We went to one recently in Gainesville. Our son was fascinated with one photographer’s work. Our daughter was more fascinated with the Italian ice. Again, hit or miss, but usually these annual art shows are free.
- Try a virtual museum visit. For the more tech minded kids, they can virtually visit the Louvre and the British National Museum. How cool is that?
- Don’t force it. Being parents we tend to force things- like ABC’s, learning multiplication facts and reading. Let’s take it easy on these kids. Art is my thing. I know this, but it doesn’t have to be theirs, and I have to learn to accept that fact. Anything else I consider as a bonus.