Meanwhile At the Art Gallery (Art explorations with wee ones)

I love taking my children to various art venues – their favourites, of course, being any outdoor exhibition of the arts-and-crafts kind. They’re a lot less excited and a lot less well behaved when they’re subjected to formal settings like art galleries, where my hushed mantra is usually “no, you can’t touch this”.
A while ago, I took them to see the works of an interesting sculptor, Andrew Benyei, which were being shown at a tiny local gallery. It promised to be interesting, at least for me: an exhibition of contemporary sculpture that was described as an exploration of the human condition, through several tableaux from everyday life (or maybe just the everyday lives of working stiffs).
My children didn’t care much about the existentialist queries posed by these affecting, sometimes poignant compositions. But they were captivated by the seeming playfulness of the miniature people in “funny” situations – this was the first time they had seen such colourful sculptures in such a serious setting.
My two girls stood in awe in front of a large panel, where various figures, men and women, looking quite anxious in their business attire, were scattered among several ladders. “Look, mama”, my six-year said in wonder, “this is snakes and ladders with real people!” – and, not surprisingly, the piece was entitled “Snakes and Ladders”.
Another piece depicting the all-too familiar (c)rush of busy elevators prompted squeals of recognition from my youngest one, who had seen a picture of it on my computer when I was searching for information on the exhibit (“Look, mama, they’re still smooshed together!”).
The children loved exploring the rest of the gallery, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the “bootiful” paintings from the permanent collection.
It turned out to be quite enjoyable for an “educational” outing – the gallery was small, fairly empty on a weekday, and the tour took a relatively short time. A perfect activity for that lazy summer afternoon: Not too drawn out, so the children didn’t have time to complain, no waiting in line to get in and rich enough in new visual experiences that I felt it was worth the “are-we-there-yet” car trip.
So there you have it: if you choose the right destination, even preschoolers can enjoy a truly esthetic experience. Ice-cream cones for a treat afterwards help too

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