For AB's thirteenth birthday, I decided to take her to the week's vacation to Seattle and the San Juan Islands!
On our way to the west coast AB and I had a stop over in Philadelphia. We had one day to visit the city and had to make some decisions what to do! We went to the old city in Philly, down by Constitution Center, the African American Museum of
Philadelphia and the Liberty Bell. We toured around in the morning and after lunch we decided we wanted to go to the art museum as well.
Looking at art. What a great experience. We headed first to the impressionists. I had to call up all that remembered about looking at art. Ironically enough I depended mostly on my knowledge of art that I learned in the 7th grade, rather than my few art history courses I took in college. AB and looked the the technique of the artists, we looked at the art from different angles and distances, we thought about the dates and what was happening in history at the time the pieces were made, we compared pieces that were close by together and we even tried to tell the story of what was happening in some of the art. Discussing and debating the significances of the pieces and even hypothesizing about how and why the pieces were made helped the two of us engage in enjoying the art. Working on thinking about the art together helped us both spend more time observing, but also understanding that there are messages and beauty to revere in art. We walked through the exhibit, not as passive observers but as active readers.
We headed to the contemporary art to read those paintings and sculptures next. This part of art museums always present a challenge for me! We tried to engage in the same way with more abstract pieces of art and tried to think about what was this teaching us about the world. We saw a couple of Calder’s 3D sculptures and mobiles. We took pictures of some of our favorite pieces that we wanted to remember and think more about!
Then we headed to the Picasso exhibit! We got the audio tour- always a great idea- and found the commentary both interesting and enlightening. Not just about Picasso’s art but about the historical time in Paris around the period of cubism and bout other artists creating pieces of art in the same time. It gave us a ton to talk about on our way back to the airport.
Just before we left on our birthday week extravaganza- AB and my god son and I spent the a Saturday in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. We went with a particular focus- to find sculptures and artifacts about Greek mythology! You remember how my god son is obsessed with The Lightening Thief? Currently he is onto book 3. Well, he wanted to see for himself how these gods were depicted back in history. Of course there was immense curiosity planted in the book that references the museum as well. So we toured the MET with just that focus.
Whether you are experiencing a new city, visiting a particular exhibit, or following a literary text to the museum, viewing art and interacting with kids helps all of us to see more and read more in the text. Mary
Ehrenworth, a scholar and literacy expert at Teachers College Columbia University wrote a book, Looking to Write, that describes how teachers (and frankly families) can help kids see the literary potential in art.
Enjoy the arts! Enjoy the read!