IDEA #29. Visit an art museum or gallery and write down some of your thoughts on the visit.
Like the sketchbook suggestion in #20, this suggestion is designed to help the young person make and deepen the connection between experience—in this case, close observation of specific paintings or other works of art—and words.
The art of seeing art does not have to be developed in gallery space. In a world in which images fly past the eye, learning to look for patterns and harmonies requires first of all the ability to look with a careful and unanxious eye. No one can enjoy a museum or gallery who feels the pressure to “appreciate” all he or she sees; the stereotype of the broing, knowledge-spouting “high-brow” is among the most powerful cultural deterrents in our society. The skill, the art, is to learn to look at and reflect on those things to which the eye and mind are most drawn, whether they are masterpieces or not.
Even if the site visited is modest in scale—a small local gallery, perhaps—and the works viewed less than Old Masters, the young person is also working here at developing skill in expressing a response to such an experience—and it must be emphasized here that there should be no expectations in terms of quality or quantity other than a good-faith attempt to elicit something more than monosyllables.
By way of motivating suggestions or topics, even such hackneyed prompts as “My favorite sculpture was” or “The part I liked the least was” might be offered. The object is not to present merely an “answer” but to develop skill in the presenting evidence both from the experience and from the child’s thoughts and feelings that will effectively support the assertion. The word Why? is always more important than What? and this is especially true in matters of opinion. (And, it should be added from this educator’s perspective, in a world in which simply having an opinion—see any cable news channel—seems to be valued for its own sake, the student who has internalized the habit of presenting evidence to support a point of view is light years ahead of most of his or her peers.)
The audience for the written response might be the child him- or herself—just a private journal or diary, maybe. If a relative, guardian, or friend should offer service as a reader, let this reader be gentle and positive only. A critique of what has been done rather than friendly encouragement toward even more will quickly defeat the purpose of this exercise.