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Children in the Virtual Art Museum

Monday, March 9th, 2009

We all know that the Internet is not an adequate replacement for the real experience of visiting the art museum. However, sometimes it’s just not possible to make the trip. Thankfully there are many resources on museum websites that provide ways of seeing into a museum, as well as offer many art-based activities and games for children. It’s also a great way to prepare your children for a visit to the art museum.

First, check out web resources for your local art museums. Then, check the website of any art museums you know of and see what they have to offer. When searching art museum websites, keep in mind that they sometimes hide these fun things under a tab called “Education” or “Programs.” It may take some searching but it will be worth it once you find the activity. Here are a few of my favorite sites but a word of warning for the adults – you may find yourself crowding the computer to do these yourself!

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has a variety of online activities for adults, teens, and young children. If modern art puzzles or delights you, this is the place to go.

TATE Online is a delightful website of fun activities with a Brit sense of humor. In the games section I enjoyed the street art activity. Find your favorite!

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has The Art Zone: Interactive Art You Can Make Online. The Photo Op activity introduces the basics of digital photography and how to manipulate images in a variety of ways. If you don’t already have it, the site will ask you to download the Adobe Shockwave Player. It takes a few minutes but it’s worth it.

Another activity is to make your own exhibition. To give you some ideas, the James A Michener Art Museum has a “Create an Exhibition” activity, along with many other activities.

Or go all out and make the whole museum and name it after your family or school.  Take a look at some interesting museum buildings and decide what you would like yours to look like.

Think about what materials you might use to make a model of your museum.  For example, when I think about making a model like a Frank Gehry building, I think of using curled paper or ribbon to get those curves. What would you use to make a model of a building like that?

Take your artist out for a ride on the Net! You will be amazed what you’ll find out there (and in yourself!)

Thanks for the great pictures from Xavier Fargas and nick.garrod

Children in Art Museums

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

In my research in art museums many parents tell me they don’t feel comfortable taking children to the art museum. Their reasons vary. Some don’t feel knowledgeable enough about art and fear looking stupid. Others perceive there is nothing for children to do there and are concerned that either the children will damage something or be bored.

Most art museums offer a variety of enjoyable family programs and that are a good way to become familiar with the museum. Check the museum’s website for the family events schedule. Hint: Sometimes museuum websites hide the family programs under the “Education” tab. In addition, many art museums have interactive family galleries where everyone can have a hands-on, minds-on experience with art. Admittedly some art museums are more “family-friendly” than others but here are a few tips for getting the most out of a visit to any art museum.

1. Be curious. Let go of the idea that you need to be an expert. Children don’t worry about this, they just follow their interests. Keep in mind that typical visitor behavior in art museums is more like haphazard grazing than eating a full meal from start to finish, so let children “graze” according to their interests. Some interests will be momentary and others will be more sustained. Rather than feel you have to answer children’s questions, help them follow up on their own questions, ponder possibilities, and seek answers from someone at the museum, if possible, in books, and online.

2. Visit frequently. A trip to the art museum is not like a vaccination – once you’ve seen it you don’t need it again. Every time you go you discover something else, even if you look at the same art each time. A family museum membership is a good value and allows you to make many short visits, avoiding fatigue, and children wishing they were somewhere else. Visit often enough to feel comfortable there and learn your way around. Children like to feel an ownership of public institutions.

3. Plan ahead and be picky. Many visitors try to see the entire art museum in one visit. If you take repeated shorter visits then each visit can be focused on one part of the museum. Check on the museum’s website for exhibitions and collections on view. Let children participate in planning what to do. Explore the website further because many art museums, such as the Walters Art Museum, have special child-friend interactive sites.

Families in ArtSparks at the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY

4. Seek inspiration. Even if an art museum has no special family gallery or family programs when you visit, experience the museum as an artist might. Bring along sketchbooks (adults need to do this too) and color pencils. Most museums allow sketching in the galleries with pencils but check the policy. When you tire of standing and looking, find a place to sit and sketch. Some museums even allow you to sit on the floor but check that too. If there is a sculpture garden and the weather is nice, that’s a great place to sketch and maybe even have a snack – but remember, no food or drink in the museum galleries.

These are just a few ideas to get you started but there are many more. For example, Australian researcher, Katrina Weier, has good ideas for taking young children to the art museum. as does Erica Loop and Abby Margolis Newman.

The most important thing is to go, relax, and have a good time. So take your inner artist to an art museum!

Thanks for the great photos to Johnnie Utah, hoyasmeg at the High Museum of Art’s Greene Family Gallery in Atlanta, and the Speed Art Museum, ArtSparks in Louisville KY.

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