By Aja Blanc
Associate Educator for Family + Youth programs at the RISD Museum of Art
We are concerned with possibility, with opening windows on alternative realities, with moving through doorways into spaces some of us have never seen before. — Maxine Greene
In her book Variations on a Blue Guitar, renowned education scholar Maxine Greene describes the potential for possibility when a work of art is fully perceived and carefully attended to. Sometimes, she says, it seems as though when we fully attend to a work of art, it is as if the work of art places upon the viewerÂ “a demand that they change, look with new eyes, hear with new ears, become something they have not been before.”
What a thrilling prospect! But perhaps also a bit overwhelming.Â In fact, teaching young children to appreciate art can seem like a downright daunting task. Luckily, it’s easier than it seems. Looking at art with children can provide opportunities to promote language development, problem-solving skills, creative thinking, and more. The reasons why are numerous, and the good news is that the reasons how are just as numerous. From tips and strategies on looking at art, to activities that engage all the senses and get creative juices flowing — there is something for every type of learner, at every age.
Let’s start with some simple tips for looking at art with your children, perhaps in a museum orÂ artist’s book.
Guide them. Modeling your own enthusiasm for looking at art can serve as a big inspiration for getting your child excited. You don’t need to be an expert on what you are looking at; simply expressing your own enjoyment in engaging with art creates a fun atmosphere.
Let them guide you. Allow your children to choose the works you will explore and let their interests guide you.
Look and talk. Start by inviting your children to simply look quietly. Follow up with an open-ended question; one we like is, “What do you notice?” For younger children, have them name the shapes or colors they see.
Get up and move. When viewing artworks in the museum, have fun looking from a variety of different angles; get close (but not too close!), far away and move from right to left. Ask your child what s/he notices from the different positions.
Make connections. IdentifyÂ with your child any themes that emerge as you look at multiple artworks, perhaps noticing artworks featuring people, nature, or animals.
Strike a pose. When looking at artworks that contain figures, notice what the body language and facial expressions show you. Invite your child to pose like the figures they see.
These are just a few simple ways to get started looking at art with children. Just relax and enjoy the time with your child and art–indeed you may look with new eyes, hear with new ears, and become something you have not been before.
Don’t forget: Every Sunday from 10am to 1pm is pay-what-you-wish at the RISD Museum!
The Artful Family is a monthly column from the RISD Museum of Art. Each month, Kidoinfo will help introduce art and creativity into your family life. To learn more about family programs at the RISD Museum, visit the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, located at 20 N. Main Street, Providence, RI.