Thursday, July 19, 2012

Because I'm a Joyful Girl: National Museum of Women in the Arts

We often hear people express reservation about taking small children to art galleries or museums for fear that they won't behave or won't "get anything" out of it.  Our lack of behavior generally doesn't stop us from doing things (although mom does actually try to get us to behave) and we definitely understand the feeling of being discouraged from partaking in the arts (ahem, our visit to the Textile Museum).  But mom and I had the total opposite experience recently on our first visit to the National Museum of Women in the Arts.  It feels like it has the potential to be a little "stuffy" when you first enter, but the docents at the desk were immediately helpful -- giving us maps, guides, and pointing out the exhibits that might interest children (and little girls more specifically) the most.  They highlighted the book exhibit, which has many 3D and almost sculptural pieces, the section of the museum that has many paintings of babies and mommies, and the tea sets.  Yeah, it was a little stereotypical genderwise (which seems to contradict the meaning behind the whole museum itself), but all of those things are right in my wheelhouse, so I was psyched.

Mom and I started at the top of the museum and worked our way down.  As expected, the paintings of babies held my interest the most and I sang goodnight lullabies to all of them.  I spent a fair bit of time picking out who was who in family portraits (mommy, daddy, baby, sister, etc.).  I also really liked finding kitty cats and the color purple (DORA PURPLE).  Mom's favorite exhibit, which is now gone, was R(ad)ical Love: Sister Mary Corita -- super cool pop art.  Of course that was the point in our visit at which I chose to act up.  But that's just to be expected.

We stuck around and had lunch at the very ladylike cafe on the mezzanine level -- overlooking the grand lobby.  I sat right down in my seat and spread my napkin out in my lap.  Mom's jaw might have dropped open.  Then I poured salt on the table and licked it right up.  That's more like it.

If you get a chance to go, don't forget to pick up a free set of interactive art cards from the front desk that functions as a cool guide to the museum.  We didn't check it until after we left, but front and center are some neat ideas to use when visiting with children, including:

  1.  Go on a colors quest.  What colors did the artist choose?  How do they make you feel?

  2.  Hunt for shapes -- geometric, organic, and fantastic!
  3.  Try a senses walk.  Imagine you could take a step into the work of art.  What would you see, hear, feel, smell, and taste?

  4.  Tell a story.  What happened just before this scene?  What happened just after?

  5.  Look at the figures.  Imagine you are one of the people represented in the artwork.  What's on your mind?  How do you feel?

We tend to do similar things when visiting art museums already, but we'll definitely put these set of ideas to use in the future.

The museum is open Monday - Saturday, 10 am - 5 pm and Sunday, 12 pm - 5pm.  Admission is $10/adult ($8/student) and kids under 18 are FREE.  And FREE community days the first Sunday of every month.  The adjacent gift shop also has some different and super cool items for sale (you know we had to go shopping, too).

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