Talking Art

Photo courtesy of Rene Dongo

Photo Credit: Rene Dongo

Holiday break can be a great time to see art as a family at a local museum or gallery. Ever wondered how to engage children in conversation about art? Here are some questions and tips you can use to get started:

– Let children lead the way. “What would you like to look at?” or “Take me to a painting that you want to see!” invites them to survey the space and find something that looks interesting to them.

– “What do you see here?” or “What do you notice?” is a simple but fruitful place to start.

– You can use a pretend game to invite children to describe what they see in detail. “Let’s pretend we’re calling (grandma, auntie, friend) and let’s tell them about this painting. They can’t see it so you have to tell them everything!”

Photo courtesy of Rene Dongo

Photo Credit: Rene Dongo

– Encourage children to share emotional responses. “How does looking at this make you feel? What parts of the painting make you feel that way?” Emphasize that art does not always need to be pretty, and it’s okay to have a range of feelings (including sadness or anger) when looking at a piece of art.

– You can also invite ideas about medium and technique. “How do you think the artist made this? What tools do you think they used?” For older children, you can show them the gallery label where the medium is usually listed along with the artist’s name and the name of the piece.

– Ask children to make comparisons. “Does this painting look similar to the one we just saw, or different? In what ways? Does this remind you of anything you have seen in real life?” If the art is representational (depicting realistic people, places or things) you can also ask for specific comparisons: “Are the people wearing clothes that look like our clothes?” “Look at the facial expressions on these two people. Do you think they are having the same feelings?” “This is a painting of the place the artist lived. Does it look different or the same from what you see when you look out the window at home? How?”

Engaging your kids in conversations about art is not just a great way to get them to connect to the art in front of them, but also a great way for them to connect with you. So get on out this week, visit a museum, and talk to your kids about all of the wonderful things you see together.

Photo Credit Sofija V

Photo Credit: Sofija V

Current, Boston Children’s Museum’s inaugural artist-in-residence program is inspired by the teaching and learning theories of contemporary artists and arts educators. Eve Ewing, the first artist-in-residence, is a celebrated artist, educator, scholar and writer. She is also a doctoral candidate at Harvard University; as a sociologist of education, her research is focused on racism, social inequality, and urban policy, and the impact of these forces on American public schools and the lives of young people. Ewing’s project A Map Home is an immersive installation at Boston Children’s Museum using swaths of canvas, paint and Sharpie markers that explores themes of place, childhood adventure and exploration, and the ways we connect text and image to make meaning in everyday life.

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