Museum conversations with children

March 17, 2008 § 4 Comments

Colo(u)rful experiences at MoMA

Jude, pictured above, my just turned 4 year old son would much rather watch a digger in action on one
Brooklyn’s ubiquitous building sites than be dragged along with me to another one of New York’s famous art museums. When I’ve managed to coax him through the door he’s usually lasted about 5 minutes max before the museum guards descend with their list of violations; don’t run; don’t climb; don’t shout; don’t lie on the floor; DON’T TOUCH! Not wanting Jude to have a completely negative experience of museums I’ve stopped taking him to see art and have spent most of the northern winter in the American Natural History Museum or the New York Transit Museum where everything is behind glass or allowed to be touched.

Last week things shifted a little in favour of art, I was looking at a timelapse video on YouTube of the installation of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at Moma. Attracted by the cranes hoisting sculptures off the back of flatbed trucks Jude climbed onto my lap to watch. Eventually he began to see beyond the cranes to ask what the sculptures were, he was particularly taken with the construction of Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk and after watching the short video about 13 more times he asked if I could take him to the sculpture garden, so I did on Saturday and was amazed and excited by his excitement. The MoMA sculpture garden is just beyond the entrance so all we had to do was run across the colourful floor (see picture above) installed as part of the current Color Chart:Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today show and out the glass doors. The guard told him not to run but he took no notice and soon discovered the Broken Obelisk – see picture below.

Jude with Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk

Because he’d seen the video on YouTube he could attach his passion for building sites to this sculpture, I think looking at art made a little more sense to him. He began to explore some of the other sculptures. In this good mood he even agreed to the Color Chart exhibition but again he lost interest fast once he was stopped from touching, back in the sculpture garden we stumbled across Color Lab, an interactive space for families created in conjunction with the Color Chart exhibition and in here Jude could not only touch the colourful objects but also had a view of his beloved Barnett Newman sculpture. At last a positive art museum experience for him.

MoMA education

When we got home we watched the YouTube video of the installation of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at Moma another 13 times.


§ 4 Responses to Museum conversations with children

  • That’s such a great story! I just came across some of the videos when doing an interview of MoMA staff for my blog and really loved the time-lapse stuff. Its so interesting how Jude made the connections. Very cool

  • Francesca says:

    Thanks for your comment Rebecca. I took Jude back to MoMA last weekend (at his request) and he actually wanted to go through a gallery this time – his reaction to the Andy Warhol soup cans was a beautiful thing. I’m going to now try him on one of the special tours for 4 year olds that MoMA runs on the weekend and see how that pans out.

  • seb chan says:

    Hi Francesca

    What is that fantastic colour stacking puzzle in the bottom picture . . . my nearly 4yr old would love to play with that too!

  • Francesca says:

    Yes they’re just brilliant aren’t they, sadly I couldn’t find them in the MoMA store. We still haven’t made it to the special 4 year olds tour but are hoping to this weekend so I’ll ask then. I’ll keep you posted!

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