Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Literacy in the Arts

     I often get asked if I expect our kids to become artists "when they grow up" - I imagine this is how actors feel when asked how they feel about their own children following in their footsteps. I don't expect or even hope my children will follow in my footsteps- for the life of an artist is surely not an easy path to travel. What I do expect from our children though is that they are visually literate- to understand and appreciate how things are made and designed.

    To that end I am always looking for teachable art moments- we do a fair amount of free style art work around here but I feel it is also important to balance that free creativity out with a dose of art history or colour theory or a lesson on design. Life after all is about finding a good balance right? One way to experience art is obviously go to an art gallery- I feel it is so important to expose kids to as much original art as possible. Posters are great but nothing beats an original!

     And so a recent rainy day found us on a visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery which yielded this little activity gem for us. The current summer show is Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters- The Cone Sisters of Baltimore- we all loved the show which was part curated-life- well- lived and part Modern Art show. The thought that these ladies lived a life which included hanging out with Modern Art Masters like Matisse and Picasso is kind of mind boggling- the artifacts of their life are very moving and inspiring.  I find as well Matisse is a really accessible artist to introduce the idea of Modern Art to people- very graphic and un-intimidating- more fun than anything but still waters always run deep.

    Back to the activity book- as mentioned this is a little gem- the kit comes complete with a lesson plan highlighting how Matisse worked through his colour cutout "drawings", a brief history of Matisse all easily laid out with images as well as stencils and coloured paper with which to make your own master pieces. Although not our typical style this little book was a refreshing change for us all- something we could explore together while referring back to our visit to the gallery.

P.S.    A few tips for taking toddlers to an art gallery on your own- start small and slow- do not expect to see the entire M.O.M.A. in one day with toddler in tow! For our trip to the V.A.G. we just went to the Modern Masters show as well as the Rodney Graham exhibit- one hour and lots of discussion on what we saw kept them interested and constantly moving. Boredom is the enemy here people! We also had a discussion prior to going into the gallery about behavior- no running, hands to our selves and quiet voices. I also set the kids up to know that they could each spend five dollars in the gift shop- they pooled their money and bought the art book- who says toddlers are unreasonable?



  1. Great post Sharilyn! I could probably use a little instruction in those areas too!

    Also, how smart are your little kiddos? That just gets me, pooling their money for the book, too cute!

    (ps, how do you not giggle when you write V.A.G.? Clearly, I am still quite immature.)

    1. It is a bit of a running joke in the local arts community referring to the V.A.G- it's tough not to giggle!

  2. MOMA! I've taken Trixie. She was pretty enthralled. Mostly we walk around and exclaim how pretty things are, and that's the extent of what I know.

  3. Dee- at this age that is perfectly appropriate! We talked about colour, shapes and content of the paintings quite a bit- as well as mood and tone. Kids get it instinctually - adults often struggle to find the right words but a kid can read a painting in a second !

    I feel people are intimidated by art because they don't know what they are doing- appreciating art for arts sake is what I feel art should be about- there is nothing wrong with a beautiful painting! Although many artists would disagree with that statement!


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