Growing up I felt a strong connection to art but I never emerged as a budding artist. My sister on the other hand is an artist in the truest sense of the word. Her painting and pottery is exquisite and her eye for color is innate. I just don’t think I got that particular gene. I do hope that if I nurture the artistic spirit in my children that maybe they too will grow up to admire the purity of art even if they are not artists themselves. I may not be able to paint, sculpt or draw, but I do love the way art makes me feel.
Being surrounded by beautiful things or visiting a museum helps me savor and ponder the precious moments in life. I remember my first trip the Louvre in Paris while studying abroad in Europe nearly 20 years ago as if it was yesterday. Entering into an iconic museum; the home to the most famous works of art and I was there. I roamed around feeling as if I should pinch myself. One of the funnier moments was when I stood an arms-length from The Mona Lisa mesmerized. The beauty, realism and the texture was overwhelming as the image itself is hypnotic. It was as if I did not have control of my own body, I reached out to touch it.
Of course, I stopped abruptly before making contact as a security guard, so politely, told me to stop. The point of this story is not to embarrass myself but to make a point about appreciating and observing art. I was in heaven wandering around greatness but I was also honestly appalled by some of the other tourists. There were groups of them, walking around the museum in a robotic fashion, with video cameras in hand, not even looking around. What is the point if you don’t see the brush strokes, the perspective in the painting or the sculpture in its natural state? I was shocked. People came from across the world to tour the Louvre and they did not even take the time to really soak it all up. What will they do when they get home? Relive the moment on video?
With that said, I hope that someday when my children are fortunate enough to visit the Louvre, they will genuinely appreciate their surroundings and be captivated by all the beauty. I feel obligated to encourage their artistic nature and let them decide for themselves. Some of the museums can be intimidating for little ones, austere and overwhelming, so we have found some marvelous family programs in the city that allow them experience the art in comfortable setting. One of our favorite places is the new Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago where on various weekends they host “Mini Masters” events. The kids enjoy reading a book about a relevant topic, followed by a visit to a related gallery and to top it off a hands-on art project in the beautiful studio overlooking the Lurie Garden. Bliss on a budget as you only pay admission for the adults (but do plan to register ahead).
The Museum of Contemporary Art also hosts “Family Day” on the second Saturday of every month. The team does an outstanding job of teaching art through stimulating and age appropriate activities as well as organizing scavenger hunts and “look & learn” stations. It always amazes me to see that two children with the exactly same materials can create completely different works of art. A great way to spend an afternoon downtown with your kids and admission is free for families with children under 12.
Another spot we love is our local Hyde Park Art Center. Not only do they provide professionally taught children’s art classes, but they host a family day of inspiration and learning. “Second Sunday” is an authentic experience, a free drop in day of art activities and performances. It is worth the trip just to discover their latest installation which is the secret passage into the studios. Save your money for a hot cocoa or gelato at Café Istria which is adjacent to the art center.
Early exposure to art is an important part of learning. Art is exploring the environment around you; art is finding inspiration in everyday life; art is everywhere! Be creative and rediscover the world of art together.