You should go to my art museum. I planned to spend an hour there with the two oldest girls, forcing culture on them. I find it also improves the sheltered lives of the frumpy dumpies who often hang out in such places waiting for their digestive tracks to function. Last time I took the middle child to a very different, more traditional art museum, she spent the whole time pointing out the penises on the statues and in the paintings. We got some very sour looks, mostly from women who might not know what a penis is. For my part, I had to do some quick calculating: how much is culture worth? That’s why it’s been over a year since we’ve gone. “Not that much,” I concluded.
Anyway, the museum we went to today had the anticipated sections: impressionism, african, native american, modernism. I thought we’d pick a section and I could spend the time trying to cajole wise and insightful statements from my daughters while they whined about sore feet and hunger. Imagine my surprise when I found out that scattered throughout each exhibit were activities for kids. And I don’t mean the kind where you look at something then go to a separate room to do a project. I mean that while looking at the African instruments, the kids crawl into a little tunnel where they watch an interactive video about Africa, complete with music. For those of us who like to sit while being cultured, there’s a row of Ipods set up with a thousand different African songs, from traditional to modern to Sweet Bessie singin’ da blues.
Each exhibit has some such thing. And if that isn’t enough, you can check out, for free, backpacks; one for each section. Inside the backpack are games and projects and “experiences”. From the African backpack, we pulled supplies to make traditional headdresses. In the Native American backpack, we felt things like goat wool and copper sheeting. We read a totem story and made the totem pole. We then made our own bento boxes with stencils like a bear, eagle wings and squatting human figure. All this, while sitting in the room with the art, looking at it and feeling inspired. I enjoyed the experience a million times more, partly because I didn’t have to fight my kids, partly because I could browse the art on my own, and mostly because I got to do the projects.
Forget passes to the children’s museum next year: we’re joining the art museum.