Inventing the Children’s Galleries

Not as much as inventing as making the existing ones more child friendly perhaps.

The time has came when we finally feel brave enough to take all three (4, 6 and 8) into the gallery. As both hubs and myself love art we waited for a long time for it and it feels like the moment has finally arrived! 😉

We went to a brilliant workshop at the National Gallery the other week where the children spent an hour or so in front of a carefully chosen painting and after a short introduction by one of the staff they tried to create their own work of art. It was a very interesting project of looking into a fragment of the picture, studying it and trying to establish where would the shadows apply and trying to subsequently transfer it into their own artwork.

It was a rather complex but very engaging project and again both myself and my husband found ourselves very much hands on helping them to create their own piece. Giselle and Conrad enjoyed it very much while Arthur did his own thing namely coloured in the picture as the whole project was a bit too advanced for him.

Before the workshop we took the children to the Impressionist section in the National. We gave them their scrapbooks and crayons and asked to choose the painting they felt the most inspired by. To be fair we introduced them to the Impressionism a bit earlier mainly by reading all the Katie series – absolutely brilliant read and illustrations!

So they were somewhat familiar with the paintings but as Giselle commented nothing can replace seeing the painting in the ‘real life’. And even more true for the impressionists! The colours, the fabric, the stroke of the brush, the layers of the paint, the different angles one could play with while looking at the painting from either the distance or close up (and yes the alarm has gone off a couple of times when they were trying to get too close to the picture but after that they got a gist of it.. I hope..).

After an hour spending sitting in front of the painting (Giselle and Arthur have chosen one while Conrad has chosen another) some lovely studies have started to appear… What surprised me most was what a different technique each of them was using. Giselle’s was more like different splodges of colours were playing together while Conrad’s one was more like the geometrical shapes symmetrically combined into one beautiful picture. Very different techniques very different ways of portraying the same thing very different approaches and very different and very interesting insights into their minds.

Again Arthur spent a while drawing but got distracted much quicker – he is not quite there yet but that is the thing about the third child – it is always being ‘pushed’ to perform things for which he is not quite ready yet. It has its pros and cons but overall we are very conscious of his age and always try to accommodate his needs doing something slightly less challenging for him but still interesting.

Can Galleries do more to attract even more children? Most definitely yes! As I agree it is not the most natural environment for the children to play, the galleries should try to be more child friendly and offer more workshops of the kind we had attended (this one had to be pre-booked in advanced and always fills up very quickly). They could do more sessions introducing the children to different painters, telling stories behind different paintings, explain different techniques and different periods in history.

Also the interactive section in each gallery is very much needed. The section where the children could touch (the replica of course) of the painting, feel the texture of it, experiment with the different paints, brushes and mediums, look at different colours and how they are being created and even watch some short movies introducing them to the lives of different painters (in a child friendly manner) and stories behind different paintings.

I believe if we plant the art-seed in an early childhood we will see the art-tree growing all the way into the adolescence and into the adult life. It used to be museums which were rather dull and not very child friendly but they have been completely turned around. Perhaps it is time to look into turning the galleries into more children-friendly venues with more hands-on exhibits and child friendly workshops/ presentations.

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