Seriously. I am asking you to please, please encourage your children to make fun of art. Whether it's art on the street, commercials on TV, or in a museum. Everything is fair game. In fact, you should start mocking art, too.
Fresh from a museum trip to Chicago, I've returned with a small collection of photos orchestrated by a very good friend of mine. She loves to go to museums and take pictures of herself and friends imitating what statues are doing. Because we visited the Art Institute of Chicago, we abstracted the idea a bit further. Any art was fair game if we could think of an interpretation. This led to especially fun antics in the contemporary wing.
And only one security guard gave us any trouble.*
What I got out of it
Besides fun? A lot.
I'm a notorious museum browser. I loves me some art, but I move at a quick clip through exhibits so I can see it all. Kind of like flipping the channels on a TV. I move until I find something I like, snap a photo (no flash, when allowed), get a photo of the nameplate, stare a little more, and move on.
Even in the best museums (The Tate Modern!) and the ones I'm least invested in (The Louvre), all the art can start to look the same after awhile. That means I'm tired. Maybe not physically, but my brain just can't take any more art. Or history. Or science. Whatever kind of knowledge is in that museum, I can take much more.
Museum designers know this. That's why great places have great spaces. For example (because I'm also fresh from it), The Field Museum offers plenty of opportunities for kids to touch and play on exhibits. It promotes learning while keeping them engaged. The Art Institute, with its slightly older member base, is sprinkled with delicious and aromatic cafés. These engage senses that aren't already exhausted from the day. You can plan a route that lets you hit lunch at a reasonable hour and still hit coffee and dessert in the Mid-20th Century.
Mocking art between these artistic food oases helped me:
- Slows down the pace
- Break up the day
- Get the blood pumping and ideas flowing
- Help me remember art based on context
- Start conversations
What your kid gets out of it
My list of benefits is exactly the same as what you need to get your kid behaving (running in the galleries, really?). Teachers and parents note that kids don't pay attention, don't take their time, and don't have meaningful engagement with art on field trips. They want to wander around and have fun with their friends.
So why not let them?**
'Mocking' the art helps kids (and adults) stay focused on long days of learning and get more out of the visit. Posing next to art to mimic it helps them cooperate and plan as a team in an artistic context, talk about what they want to pose with and don't want to pose with, as well as helping them remember particularly fun pieces.
Mocking arts helps kids by:
- Making them take more time on a piece-by-piece basis
- Keeps them from getting bored
- Keeps energy and engagement up
- Provides lasting memories of artistic experiences
- Helps them talk to peers about art
Mocking is play; playing is fun
Similar to the NYTimes article 'In Defense of Teasing' from 2008, the moral here is that what kids already do is probably most beneficial for them. If it's fun, our minds get more out of the experience. Funny how evolution and socialization work.
Don't believe me? Try it the next time you're at a museum. Wait a few days, then try to remember pieces that you saw. I'll bet you mostly remember pieces that you imitated.
And please, please, please tweet your best picture at me (@MackWorrall). This is less of a shameless plug for my Twitter account and more an attempt to get an influx of funny art pictures to my daily social media rounds.
* To be fair, there was some lying down on the museum floor involved. ** Depending on age, I don't necessarily condone letting your kid run free in the museum. First of all, stranger danger. Secondly, art is expensive. Third, I'd love for you to not be banned for life from any one institution. It's not fun.