Tips for Looking at Art Together as a Family
Choosing a Theme
- Experiment with looking at several artworks together and connecting them to a “big idea” such as Setting and Place; Texture and Material; Color and Shape.
- Find a work of art that interests you both. Resist the urge to look at the wall label right away—what do you see or notice in the artwork without reading any written information?
- Explore the galleries to locate and discuss works of art that relate directly to your family’s chosen theme.
- Use an artwork to create an imaginary story based on your theme.
See what you discover together by looking carefully at the artworks and asking your child many questions throughout your museum experience. Ask your little one(s) what they first notice about a work of art, and subsequent questions such as: “what details are in the picture?” “what colors has this artist used?” “what is the mood of this painting?” Encourage even deeper personal connections with questions such as, “Find a work of art that features a figure you would like to befriend. What do you see that draws you to this figure?” or “Find a work of art that tells a secret. What does it tell you?”
Extend your conversations by using other activity prompts to encourage your child to look deeper into an artwork.
- For a work of art that depicts a place, imagine what it might be like there. What could you hear, smell, or feel in that place? Would you want to live there? Draw a picture of yourself in that place—what do you depict yourself doing?
- For an artwork that tells a story, imagine what might be happening in the moments directly following the moment that the artist captures. Draw how you envision this story to unfold in the moments that ensue
- Sketch an artwork that includes a strong central character—what might s/he be thinking or feeling? Include a thought bubble over your interpretation of the figure and fill it with the character’s internal dialogue.
- Discuss together what alternate titles you would each assign the artwork you are discussing. Compare to the artist’s chosen title. What qualities does this artwork possess that supports the title you are drawn to? Does the artists’ given title change your opinion about the artwork?
Image: Cow Jump Over the Mone, Nellie Mae Rowe (1900–1982), Vinings, Georgia, 1978, colored pencil, crayon, and pencil on paper, 19 1/2 x 25 1/4″, American Folk Art Museum, gift of Judith Alexander, 1997.10.1. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.