Looking for a kid-friendly Vancouver venue to introduce your little ones to art? Hilary Letwin suggests Start with Art at the Seymour Art Gallery on the North Shore.
“Mama, can I see the new exhibition?” These words from my two-year-old delight me, but as soon as I hear them, I run through a mental checklist of the works in the exhibition in order to identify the pieces that she is most likely to touch. My daughter will often stop by the Seymour Art Gallery, where I am working as the Curator, and while she is equally excited to see my relatively boring office, she never tires of storming into the gallery space. As I write this, our current exhibition consists of a video projection (safe), framed watercolours on the wall (safe), and a table of plaster casts of crystals (total tactile temptation!).
The artists and I were in agreement that we did not want to load this table and their beautiful, pure white casts, with a large and off-putting “Do Not Touch” sign. Our volunteers, who watch over our exhibitions in the gallery have been encouraged to allow visitors to pick up the casts, admire their three-dimensionality, and examine them closely. However, this is not a possibility with every art exhibition, and children, like all museum-goers, should be taught to treat art with respect. So how can you give your children a kid-friendly Vancouver introduction to art?
Kid-Friendly Vancouver Introduction to Art
Attitudes about how to approach art respectfully have changed: ancient sculptures of the goddess Venus were typically kept under close guard. These most beautiful sculptures often fell prey to admirers who would leave unseemly stains, traces of their physical desire for the goddess of love. While the Nike of Samothrace has likely experienced her final caress, human nature has not changed so much in two millennia so as to put us off wanting to feel marble or fabric between our fingers. In order to be truly successful, modern museums should work to accommodate this need for visitors to engage with their art as much as possible and in as many ways as possible. Many museums offer treasure trails for children, and some, depending on the exhibition, will include materials specifically designed to be touched. However, I think, as a museum professional, that we could do still more to teach children about art and to make museums even more accessible to them (and to their parents).
At the Seymour Art Gallery, we organize an annual exhibition called Start with Art (running between April 2nd until the 27th, 2014) which features a selection of artists who have made works that are designed to appeal expressly to children. The purpose of the kid-friendly Vancouver exhibition is to foster a love of art and art collecting within the younger generations. The works of art are all moderately priced (under $150), displayed at kid-level, and can only be bought by those under 16. The art is not child-like; rather, it is relatively sophisticated. The works appeal to children through their narratives, subjects and materials. However, the exhibition is not solely about selling and collecting art, but rather an ideal opportunity to take your children to a museum and show them art that may appeal and awaken a further interest in the arts.
Share an Artistic Experience
If you are interested in giving your child an additional “museum” experience, bring them to our opening. On Sunday, April 6th, 2014 between 2:00 and 4:30 p.m., the Seymour Art Gallery will be hosting a free reception for Start with Art, which will include crafts, sweets platters, and a puppet show in the gallery by the Moth Orbit Object Theater.
As with so many things about learning, repetition is key. As parents, if we prioritize taking our children to kid-friendly Vancouver museums regularly, whether it is Start with Art at the Seymour Art Gallery, or another of the great museums in the Lower Mainland, they will learn how to engage better with art and, hopefully, value its place in our society.