Our second Brand New Experience of the year was a little more erudite than licking batteries. We visited Princeton University Art Museum.
As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a security guard who did not look happy to see two children in his museum. I avoided eye contact with him and instead talked to a friendly docent who explained the Artful Adventures program. He showed my children about six different packets, each highlighting a different type of art. They could choose one and, upon completion of the packet, they would receive a sticker to place in a little passport. As soon as Luke saw the depiction of a knight on the cover of the Medieval European Art packet, he knew he wanted to visit that part of the museum. I was able to convince Leah that she would also like Medieval Art because we were sure to see castles and princesses. Dodged a bullet (read: tantrum) there!
The art museum itself is a gem. It has an extensive collection of art , including African, Asian, European, and American works. As we walked toward the room holding the Medieval works, I noticed how quiet it was. Unfortunately, my children did, too. I am not sure who started it, but soon both my kids were singing “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” loud enough that their voices were echoing through the halls.
“Stop it now!” I whisper-yelled, giving them my sternest face. Leah giggled. Luke shrugged his shoulders. They couldn’t help it. That echo was just too hard to resist.
When we got to the Medieval Art section of the museum, we opened the packets and got to work. First I read a short story about Sir Gawain, one of King Arthur’s knights. Then we had to search to find a small marble depiction of the story and find the differences between the story and the art. We also searched for a stained glass window that showed a fleur-de-lis, the symbol of French royalty. Finally, we examined the marble statue of a knight who was killed in battle. I think I learned more about Medieval Art in 2o minutes in that room than I have in a lifetime!
As we worked on our packets, Leah scribbled at the top of a page. “Do you know what this says?” she asked. “It says, ‘Leah loves this art museum'” I couldn’t be happier.
On our way out of the museum, we briefly stopped in the room that held Impressionist Art. I showed the kids how if you walk as close as you can to an Impressionist painting, it becomes difficult to tell what the subject of the painting is. It just looks like blobs of paint. If you walk backwards about 10 feet, the picture becomes clearer. I wish I could say I learned that little trick in an Art Appreciation class, but really, I saw it in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
We stopped to pick up our passports and stickers on the way out. The kids looked at the remaining packets and discussed which one we will do next time. I love that these packets let kids examine a small portion of the museum at a time so they don’t get bored or overwhelmed by all the art. We’ll definitely return.
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