Thursday, April 26, 2007

An Arty Afternoon

For the past three or four years, our homeschool group has been paying a monthly visit to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, where docents lead us on guided tours and teach us all kinds of different things about the many wonderful pieces of art that this little museum proudly houses.

My friend Kayte, the birthday girl, is the person who started this event for our group and it has been a wild success. Meelyn and Aisling have only been going for the past two years (they weren't old enough before that) and it has led to a pleasantly expanded view of the world that I have really enjoyed. So have they.

When Meelyn was old enough (twelve) to join this activity, I needed something to do with Aisling and I knew good and well that I was not equipped to do the self-guided thing around the museum while Meelyn went off with the older kids. So the reasonable thing to do seemed to be to start a group for kids in grades 4-6, allowing younger brothers and sisters to tour concurrently with their older siblings. It has made for a lot of interesting conversations in the van on the way home as the girls tell about the different pieces of art they've seen and what the docent has had to say. Or sometimes, they see the same piece of art and it is fascinating to hear what different docents say about the same painting.

Kayte has told me that she has appreciated these tours because she loves the idea that the kids in the group will never feel particularly intimidated by art museums for the rest of their lives. They'll know what to expect whether they're viewing a simple gallery in a university's art museum or whether they're at the Guggenheim or the Louvre. They'll know they belong.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art by night. Of course, we're always there during the day, but
I couldn't resist posting this gorgeous picture.

"Our kids will be able to say, 'Oh, I practically grew up at the Indianapolis Museum of Art,'" Kayte says, her big green eyes glowing. She has a passion for art and learning and she has done a really good thing for our group in keeping this activity going.

This was our last tour for the school year - we'll start up again in September 2007. Here's the year in review:

September - the American Collection - click the link for a slide show of IMA's American art

October - Special Exhibit: Quilts from Gee's Bend

November - Portrait Tour (younger students) and Painting & Poetry (older students)

January - Contemporary Collection

February - Asian Collection, which opened in the fall of 2006

March - The European Collection of painting and sculpture before 1800

April - The Classical Collection (only about nine pieces of ancient Greek and Roman art) and the European Collect of painting and sculpture after 1800

It was a magnificent year of art.

Next year, we're going to start a separate tour just for the moms. We'll all be going on the same tour as our kids and I think that the conversations on the way home will be even better.

I always ask the girls to tell me what they've learned and sometimes the things they say (like, "I learned that our docent is the most boring person in the world") make me want to give them a poke, but sometimes they come up with things that surprise me.

Today, the three of us were all on different tours. Meelyn was off with the teenagers, Aisling was with a group of her little friends, and I served as a chaperone for some other children in the middle school/upper elementary group.

In my group, we learned that Classical art is defined largely by the Greek and Roman love of the perfect human form. Their statuary was also characterized by the way the folds in the figures' robes were carved with such "flow" and also by the exacting detail of the hair. Interesting! We also learned that the Baroque period borrowed some elements of the Classical period by depicting the human figure with defined musculature, "hero"-type men of stunning proportions. Baroque art also is known by the action taking place in the painting. That's not a Classical element, but an interesting one nonetheless.

Meelyn learned that Impressionist artists had to paint very quickly when they were doing an outdoor subject because the cloud formations and the way the light was falling could change very rapidly. (This was from the second part of the tour, where we were looking at European art dated after 1800.)

Aisling told us that she learned that it is very hard not to talk to her friend Rachel, even when the docent is talking. I looked over my shoulder and gave her the Mother Eye, the look that can turn children to stone if used in full force. Fortunately for her, she was able to receive only a half-dose. "I learned that Classical art has a lot of naked people in it," she said.

"Yeah, that too," said Meelyn musingly. "It was so not fun looking at all those naked-boob statues with boys around."

"And there were other statues with....boy parts," Aisling said grimly, lowering her voice to a whisper on the last two words, as if she were afraid that the volleyball rolling around in the back would be shocked and offended. My husband and I have often opined that there is a part of Aisling's personality that was born at about seventy-four years old, a grumpy, disapproving sort of seventy-four.

"Well, yes," I responded, hoping to draw them away from nakedness and back toward art. "What about the Classical period makes you think that there was a reason for this?"

Both girls thought hard for a moment until Meelyn said, "Hey!"

"Yes?" I asked, encouraged by what insight she was going to share.

"There's a Hummer! Wouldn't it be too cool if we had a black Hummer with tinted windows?"

Art. We hardly knew ye.


Kbg said...

Well, thankyouverymuch for the lovely comments about the IMA tours and my part in all do know, however, that my eyes are GREEN, not are thinking of Mark and Alex with their beautiful blue eyes! I will forgive you as I can never remember the slightest details like that...if you had to rely on my descriptions of people, with a rare exception, it would be something like, "Well, I know the book they were reading, carrying, holding, etc...." I have no clue what color your eyes are all the years I have looked into them when we have spoken...not a clue. But I do know what book you had the last time I saw you...LOL. Of course, this also means that I never notice when you are having a bad hair day or put your makeup on wrong or any of those kinds of things, so that is advantageous from your perspective, right? I love the description the girls gave of the art they saw...when I asked Matt, he said, "Oh, the usual things they have had there for years, and then two new items in the European collection that I don't remember being there." Yes, yes, yes...he does know that place backwards and forwards like I had always hoped...someday he will tell Oprah "Well, it all started with my mom who used to drag me to every museum in any town we were visiting...and now, well, I can't escape my love of all kinds of art and history...." I can see it now...Okay...maybe not, but there is the dream!

Shelley said...

My eyes are green, too!

Whenever we went on family vacations, my mom always insisted that we go to every museum going, as well as getting out of the car and trekking over college campuses. Campi? Now I'm doing the same thing to my kids. Sounds like you are too. Hee!