My mother is an accomplished artist whose work is moving in ever more interesting directions. My father is an artist and a poet. The two of them ran their own art gallery in Michigan for exactly 40 years. (If you want to fall in love with my parents just click that last link for a short film my brother made.) The art gallery spilled over into our home and we were always surrounded by unusual and beautiful things. When you are young you assume there is nothing unique about your own experience. So for us that's what life was supposed to be like--bursting at the seams with art.
It was years before I realized other people didn't hang and rehang original work all over their homes like a gallery. That maybe it was special to have your own childish work framed with acid free mats and mounted on the wall in the same room as a print by Picasso or Whistler. We even had a press for printing etchings in our basement that my brothers and I mostly found amusing for crushing broken crayons with in the gears. We had frame samples to play with and professional quality colored pencils to use. Sure, occasionally a painting we liked that had been hanging over the bed for years might get sold and go away, but there was always something new to enjoy. Art was just part of life.
|Milwaukee Art Museum by moonlight tonight as we were leaving|
|Quinn at the museum|
So even though I don't fear for my own children's art education I'm still distressed that funding for art was cut from their school a couple of years ago. Fernwood Montessori has a high level of parental involvement, however, so despite budget cuts to the public schools there have been volunteers to keep some kind of art program running for our kids. But what does it say about our priorities when we provide so few resources for education that they feel they must cut art?
Art is not expendable. Art is life.
Art is about history, and invention, and discovery, and imagination. Learning about art is about learning how to see. Looking at art is about being able to interpret the world around you. To be able to control shapes and images at your fingertips and translate something from your mind into a tangible form that others can appreciate is a powerful thing. How is this something we are so quick to dismiss for certain children just because of the tax base their school is in? All children deserve access to art. And even though this isn't an area where my own children are deprived, I don't like the message it sends to them when the school system they are in puts art education on the chopping block. I want them in an environment where art is valued.
|Mona, Quinn, and Aden with art rocks|
Plus an impressive number of hands-on activities, including crafts and drawing.
We actually hadn't spent time together at the museum in a while. The girls have been for field trips and I've performed there a couple of times in the past year, but my parents decided while they were in town for Thanksgiving weekend they wanted to see the current show of Rembrandt, Van Dyke, and Gainsborough paintings on display. It was lovely.
For anyone who thinks their children may get bored in an art museum, you'd be surprised how interested they can get, especially when you start discussing everything around you and you give them a chance to teach you something. Aden pointed out to me a sculpture I've walked past a million times was entirely constructed out of buttons, which was something I'd never noticed. Quinn couldn't get over how old the Greek urns were. Mona liked the armor. But if we ever planned to spend a long enough day in the museum that I thought they would lose interest I would draw them up a checklist of things to find, where they could tally up everything from mummies to nipples and I'm sure they would stay quite entertained. (Last trip to the zoo I made them bingo cards for spotting lions, squirrels, and bathrooms and it made them very happy.)
Even without that kind of personal resource, there are endless beautiful books available at the library, and in some places even reproductions of famous paintings to hang on your wall for a little bit before exchanging them for something new.
Nobody has to love all kinds of art. Even at the extraordinary show we saw today there were paintings we didn't like and would not choose to live with. But the things that were beautiful were so beautiful they will stay with me. Aden has told me some things she's seen at our museum have even entered her dreams they left such a large impression. I like that.
I don't know if my children understand yet how much of their experience in our home is not universal. There are days I worry that I allow them to be more sheltered than is healthy in the long run, but we'll see. In the meantime I'm glad that at least art is not something rare or distant for them. It is part of their everyday world and something they feel included in. Art is around us like family. Art is part of our lives.