Summer is a perfect time to take your students or children to a local art museum. There are some things you should think about before you do.
artist. Most museums also have an ongoing permanent collection.
Find out the hours the exhibition will be opened, the price of admission,
and if there is a docent (art guide) available for children oriented
tours. Sometimes it is possible, during the weekdays to join a
school tour lead by the educational department. Find out if there
are special materials available for your child to receive when
they arrive at the museum.
2. Research the artist/artists featured and find a comparable
children's book that will introduce your child/student to the
exhibition. Call the educational department of the museum and
ask to speak to the educational curator. Ask them if there are
materials available for you to review or receive that will explain art
through a child's perceptive.
3. Purchase a few postcards ahead of time or buy a catalog of the
show. Children, like adults, are excited to see something that
they have been introduced to ahead of time. You can create a
game of "where are the paintings you know." The child will be
surprised, delighted, and bursting with self-esteem when they
recognize the painting, the title and artist.
4. Explain the rules of the museum to the child beforehand so that
they will have an enjoyable experience at the museum and will not
have to be reminded by a guard not to touch the artworks.
5. Make the visit short. A museum can be too much of a good thing,
especially the first visit.
6. Ask the child ahead of time to choose a favorite work of art.
7. Ask the museum about taking photographs, or video. Most
museums will allow non-flash photos and most all will allow non-
commercial video of their own collections. You will probably not
be able to photograph visiting shows. Often you can purchase
a postcard of most works in permanent collections.
AT THE MUSEUM
1. Meet and introduce the child to the docent if you have made
2. Remind your child to tell you when they discover the special
painting/paintings that they chose before coming to the museum.
3. When looking at individual paintings or works of art, ask
the child to imagine that they were describing the artwork to
someone who had never seen the artwork. Ask them to look and
name everything that they see in the composition. Remind them
that there is also information about the painting in written
form on the wall. They will be able to find out the title, artist,
nationality of artist, medium, of the artworks.
4. Next ask them to name the lines that they see. Do they see any
horizontal lines. Do they see vertical lines? etc.
What about the colors. Do they see warm colors-like red fire, or
a yellow sunny color, or orange colors like a volcano erupting?
Do they see cool colors-like a blue fresh sky, or green grass, or
violet (purple) cold ice? Are the people or objects low on the
compositional plane? Does that placement make them look closer to us?
Are the figures or objects in the background blurry? Does that
create a feeling of being far away. Ask them about textures?
Is the surface of the composition smooth, or coarse, or shiny,
or dull? Are there round shapes, or square shapes, or triangular
shapes in the composition?
5. Ask the child if they see a story being told in the painting.
Does the painting tell them something about people from another
time? Does the artist let us make up our own story? What might
the people be doing or saying to each other? What is the weather
like in the artwork? What time of year is it? What country is
presented? What kinds of clothing is being worn? Is the artist
paying tribute to a group of people? Is the artist telling us
about the suffering or injustice that the artist sees around
the world? Is the artist showing us nature? or beauty? or
making a religious statement?
AFTER THE MUSEUM VISIT
1. Ask the child to write a short letter about one painting that
they saw at the museum. Ask them to describe this painting so
that the person they are writing to might get a mind's eye view of
2. Look at the postcard and ask the child to compare the differences
between the real painting and the postcard version. Does seeing the
real colors, and textures, and size contribute more to the enjoyment
and understanding of the artwork?
3. After printing the information below, ask the child to
circle the following lines, colors, textures,
space, and shapes that they find in this particular painting.
Line-vertical, horizontal, zigzag, wavy, curving, flowing, broken
Do the horizontal lines create a peaceful feeling in the painting?
What about the zigzag lines? or the broken ones. What kind of
mood do they create? As the child to think of and draw 5 more lines
that an artist might use to create an artwork.
Color-primary colors (red, yellow, blue), warm colors (red, yellow,
orange), cool colors (blue, green violet), complementary colors
(colors which are opposite one another on the color wheel), analogous
colors (colors which are side-by-side, or adjacent on the color wheel.
How do the colors effect the mood or feel of the painting. Complement-
ary colors create a sense of excitement, whereas analogous colors
create a mood of calmness and peace.
Space-deep, shallow, flat, volumesque, empty space. Where are you,
the viewer, in relationship to the painting? Has the artist used
overlapping, placement, one-point perspective, aerial perspective,
or color relationships to create a sense of space in the the
painting or artwork.
Texture-matte, dull, shiny, coarse, feather-like, fuzzy. Texture
can be seen as well as felt. Texture is the amount of surface
light seen in the artwork. A dull surface give a different meaning
to an artwork than a bright surface does. Ask the child to discuss
the influence that texture and the other elements of composition
(line, texture, space, color, and shape) have on the meaning of
Shape-rounded, square, biomorphic (those shapes found in nature),
triangular, pyramidal, cylindrical. Ask the child to imagine that
the painting was a theatrical stage set. Would the shapes be easily
cut-out to form paper-doll like figures or are they blended and
more painterly. Are the figures or objects stiff and unyielding or
are they soft and diffused.
4. Encourage the child to create a story about what the artist is saying
to the viewer.
5. Encourage the child to create a painting, collage, or sculpture of the
artwork before reviewing the postcard.
6. Suggest that the child select just one part of the painting and
magnify it with their imagination and then draw it.
7. Draw or paint the artwork and then cut and paste it onto a
cardboard to create a puzzle.
8. Encourage the child to explore the elements of composition
by participating in exercises that reinforce their understanding
of line, texture, space, color, and shape. You can find these
exercises on the Art History for Kids website
9. Plan another visit to the museum soon.
Art Teacher on the Net (c) l997, 2012