Some of us are numbers people, some are word people, some of us are visual people. For many, the thought of entering an art gallery with their children brings on heart palpitations and sweaty palms. ‘Isn’t art a bit la-de-da?’ you likely ask. ‘I don’t know about art,’ I hear you say. But I’m determined to change your mind…
Art doesn’t have to be pretentious or inaccessible. Art is to inspire and admire, to evoke emotions and say something about what is happening in the world around us. All of these things children are capable of doing, sometimes better than adults, with their blinkers off and wild imaginations un-squashed by others ideals and expectations. Just ask them, you’ll see.
Many parents are reluctant to do things with their kids if they don’t think they know enough about it and yes, I am guilty of it too. My middle child is showing signs of being a nifty little soccer player and I’m AFL all the way, so I get it! The best thing is, kids don’t need you to know everything. They just need you to be present and ask just a few of the right questions.
Here are a few guiding questions for children of all ages as you view art together and some follow up activities for afterwards.
Start with what they know. What can they see?
From the day babies are born we are teaching them about shapes, reading them books about colour and giving them toys with various textures, so start with this.
- Does it look rough or smooth?
- Is it fluffy or is it hard?
- Is it designed to be touched?
As children get older they begin to notice what objects are made from. Even in their own art works they use crayon, paper, paints, plastic and fabric and they manipulate these materials or ‘media’ with tools such as scissors, sticks, cutters, stencils and paintbrushes.
- What is the artwork made out of?
- What tools have been used to make the artwork?
Art is about how the artist views the world and how they want us to view this through their work. Ask your child…
- Is the artwork created to be viewed up close or from a distance?
- How does this change the message?
We’ve all listened to music that has made us dance with joy around the kitchen (I’m not the only one right?) or cry in your car in peak hour traffic because it reminds us of a person or a moment. We watch films which make us laugh until we cry or have us leaving the cinema with a deep attachment and concern for a character. We hang paintings on our walls to create a sense of calm or walk down alley ways to be reminded of the raw message coming from others in our society. It all makes us feel something so ask…
- How does this artwork make you feel?
- Why has the artist used these particular colours to convey this emotion?
- Does the artwork show movement?
- Is this movement making you feel a certain way?
Once we feel, we can connect. We remember. We see what the artist may have been feeling.
- Does this remind you of a book you have read?
- Is it telling its own story?
- Perhaps it reminds you of one of your own experiences?
- What is this artwork saying about the world?
For older children, once they have asked these questions of a few artworks they can understand how artworks may compliment or contrast each other. Choose two art works in the same exhibition, gallery space, sculpture park, city alley…
- How are they the same?
- How are they different?
- Could you say that one is ‘better’ than the other? What makes it ‘better’?
Ask then answer
If you are reading these thinking, ‘Yeah sure! Ask them those questions and my kids are going to give me that blank look. You know the one, the one they give you when you ask them to clean up their stuff when they are watching TV – Huh?’
Just like when you are introducing them to a new vegetable, you have to eat it first to show them how good it is. Sometimes you need to lead them, ask the question then follow it with your thoughts. After a while they will be answering by themselves and even start asking you the questions!
Further questions + activities
- Re-create the artwork using paints or found materials from home.
- Create your own artwork as a reflection of how the original artwork made you feel.
- Find out about the artist and their process and background. If the artist is local, find out if you can visit their studio and see the process for yourself.
- Sign up to art galleries – they often run arts programs during the term and on school holidays where real life artists can guide your kids in creating and appreciating art!
- Celebrate their creations – have a wall or fridge space to exhibit their work. Encourage them to develop their technique by keeping their ideas and development in an artists folio.
Just start with one question no matter what age your kids are, and you will be surprised where it may lead you.
For some accessible and inspiring art to view on the Mornington Peninsula + Frankston area – put these on the ‘to visit’ list.
Oak Hill Gallery – Mornington
Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery – Mornington
Manyung Gallery – Mount Eliza, Mornington, Sorrento + Flinders (Malvern + Asia)
The Nook Gallery – Mornington
The Studio + Co – Hastings
Merricks House Art Gallery – Merricks
Frankston Arts Centre – Frankston
McClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park – Langwarrin
Pt. Leo Estate – Point Leo
Montalto Sculpture Trail @ Montalto Winery – Red Hill South