Children & Art

Fine art and children are related in many ways. Most children are visually stimulated from an early age, be it through finger painting projects at school, dressing up in costumes, or reading brightly colored picture books with their parents. Exposure to fine art is just another avenue for visual awareness, in a sense, but one that will carry these children into adulthood. The relationship between kids and art has come up four times for me this week alone.

I have recently been retained to conduct lecture tours at The Met for an organization called Metropolitan Moms where new mothers may bring their babies in strollers for museum tours as part of a fine art lecture series. I am really looking forward to participating and to giving new mothers some insight into artwork I love as well as a break from their daily routines.

Then, a good friend (who is also a new mother) contacted me to see if she and her child could accompany me on any upcoming gallery or art fair visits as she and her son have been joining me for such visits since he was just four weeks old. Though he is too young to appreciate what we are doing, it is a great way for his mother to learn about and enjoy art. We have also found that most people love to meet a well-behaved baby in an otherwise adult dominated setting. I look forward to bringing him to these same types of events and places as an older child as well.

Next, another friend asked me to help her locate the perfect work of art for her baby’s bedroom. My friend is interested in investing in a quality work of art that will grow with her child rather than simply purchasing a standard, unsophisticated piece of mass-produced “kids room art” from a catalogue. She hopes that her daughter will grow to appreciate being raised with a painting in her bedroom, and that she will then be comfortable around artwork as an older child and as an adult. Although we want to keep away from typical kids room artwork this project calls for something visually appealing and easy to live with as it is, after all, meant for a child’s room. Not alone in wanting to raise her daughter to be visually aware, I recall that another friend once told me that she and her husband would mark the occasion of their child’s birth by purchasing a work of art for themselves that they would later give to their daughter.

Third, I met an art world colleague whose twelve year old son’s art collection happened the subject of a September 14, 2007 Wall Street Journal article entitled “Small Collectors.” I remember this article well as it is a savvy piece on how some lucky children are learning to buy and live with art at a very young age. The artwork selection allows the children to express themselves and the process of collecting teaches them immeasurable business and interpersonal skills rarely learned by children of that age — but packaged in a fun way: as artwork.

The idea of a multi-generational approach to art appreciation is alive and well in these families. Whether for the good of the parent or the child, spending time around fine art and learning more about it will create a more culturally aware population of children who are at home in museums and around artwork.