Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Art Museum etiquette and children

Today we visited the National Gallery of Art with some of our young students.

When visiting a museum I like to teach our students respect for art and the experience of admiring and learning from artwork, so I teach them to have an attitude of attunement and sobriety similarly to when one may visit a religious site or library.

I teach them that the museums belong to them-our Nation's heritage and treasures....they are to be well regarded and cared for so that we may all share it with our children, grandchildren and generations to come.

I teach them not to touch or lean on the art or even the walls and glass; not to run or talk loudly, to hold their hands behind their back to lean in to a work of art to admire and understand the details and nuances utilized by the artist to produce whatever effect is drawing them in....etc.

And they listen.
Far better than my college students.
Far better than many of the adults I often see sitting on the pedestals of art or even leaning on sculptures to have their photos taken (are they there for the art or merely using it as another photo op for Facebook??--I digress......)

Today as we quietly walked into one of the galleries a guard told me to "keep your children quiet" because there was a 'delegation' admiring the work, I became instantly irritated at the elitism of the moment....I had noticed the group when we had come in and recognized them...VIPs of the museum's Board of Directors coming to get a private tour.
So...our group is looked as "lesser than.." these "VIPs" simply because they are children!?

I looked at the guard and glancing back at the group that was following me I said: "they are rather quiet don't you think? They will do just fine" .... and with what was probably a look of disdain on my part.... I walked into the gallery followed by all of the children.

There they stood quietly while I spoke to them about each of the works, the materials and technique etc... and do you know what? I could hardly hear myself TALK above the "VIP group".... the children...quiet as mice, raising their hands for tiny questions with big significance... Oh these wonderFULL children who will grow up to admire, understand and support the arts! ... and the VIP group cackling at whatever jokes they were sharing whilst looking at the art.

As we left the gallery I approached the guard and said to him "..your special group was SO loud I could not hear myself talk over them...I hope you noticed our group was well behaved and quiet"...

The guard looked at me and exclaimed "I am so sorry, please accept my apology..
I am SO sorry he repeated, adding I did not intend to..." -

I accepted his apology and then as we stepped into the sunny day....
and I thought it is too bad that adults in suits are given more respect than children just because they are well...:adults. in suits.

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, 
yet we forget that he is someone today. 
 ~Stacia Tauscher

Ah...the now famous DC earthquake? Well, apparently we missed it by TWO minutes. Yep, that is all. We went underground and were riding the metro when it struck.

I think next week, when we go back to the museum, 
I will take the guard a nice handmade card drawn by the children and yours truly.

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