After hearing how much fun my middle and I had at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum a few weeks ago, my oldest, Addie, requested a grown-up girls’ date to another metro museum.
It didn’t surprise me that my crafty, creative girl chose the OKC Museum of Art, specifically to see the exhibit Van Gogh, Monet, Degas: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. After learning about Monet in art class at school last year, and trying her hand at a water scene in the impressionist style, she’s been pretty captivated by him.
I was unsure what a trip to the art museum would be like with an 8-year-old, but in truth I really wanted to see the exhibition myself, so off we went. I expected to breeze through the exhibition, maybe catching glimpses of the other galleries, but we spent more than two hours in awe with lots to discuss as we walked every inch of the museum.
I learned a few things on this trip — primarily, to never underestimate my, or other, kids’ abilities to understand and appreciate art. The art museum itself does a great job of making the exhibitions kid friendly, from providing bags full of coordinating activities kids can carry throughout their visit to defining spots throughout where kids (of all ages!) can try their hand at portrait sketching or abstract art creation. Though Addie didn’t make use of them this time, I can see those extras would make a trip to the museum perfectly feasible for my younger kids.
The keys to our long-lasting fun were deciphering the information on the placards beside each painting, examinin
g how the art was made, learning about the artists themselves and talking about what makes us appreciate art. Our four can’t-miss suggestions for an experience at OKCMOA are:
Experience the Monet, Degas, Van Gogh exhibition before it leaves Sept. 22. Addie and I loved that the gallery was separated by theme. We enjoyed comparing and contrasting how the various artists had created paintings with similar themes, noting different brush strokes, use of color and degree of realism. We each chose our favorites in each section. I was really impressed by her questions, insight and ability to perceive how art can communicate emotion, political struggles or new ideas.
Check out Chihuly. Though Addie went to the museum with a firm idea of her favorite artist (Monet), I think it’s safe to say she has a new one in Dale Chihuly. She was agog when we stepped into the lobby and saw his towering blown glass creation stretching to the ceiling. Before we entered the Chihuly Magic & Light gallery, we rested our legs and watched a brief film about how he creates his pieces, the temperatures necessary to melt the glass into a honey-like substance and the care, patience and precision each unique piece requires. Addie’s eyes lit up as we discovered the eye-popping color and gravity-defying presentations around each corner of the exhibition. We talked about how everything from the lighting to the surface upon which the blown glass rested served to present the art in a specific way. Her favorite part — which made her gasp in delight — was the Oklahoma Persian Ceiling in which the glass creations are overhead. She loved finding the five glass putti (“little boys” or “cherubs” in Italian) hidden among the brightly colored persians.
Admire the abstract art. Addie especially enjoyed that the art in the Postwar Abstraction: Variations gallery was open to the interpretation of the viewer. When I told her that her dad always exclaims when viewing abstract art, “I could have made that!” we both got a case of the giggles and deduced he could NOT have created any of the pieces in the gallery. We enjoyed the commentary on the walls and placards examining that very idea of what constitutes art.
Peruse the permanent collection. Portraits, still life, seascapes landscapes, scenes of urban life and much more provided a comprehensive look at a wide variety of artists across history. Addie enjoyed guessing which pieces were the oldest in the collection, and she was usually right! Easels with sketchpads were available for guests to create their own masterpieces. Be forewarned: there was a bit of giggling in the section of nudes.
I appreciate that the OKCMOA is intent on making art experiences available to all ages, with regularly scheduled programs for babies and toddlers, free family days and Studio Sundays, free-with-admission art-making programs for families inspired by special exhibitions. Find all upcoming kid-specific activities here: https://www.okcmoa.com/learn/.
Addie and I can’t wait to plan a return trip, but in the meantime we’ll be using the ideas and creativity we gained at the museum to create our own artwork at home and look more closely for the art all around us.