Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Art Museum

The girls and I made an art museum today. 
It wasn't as hard work as it sounds! 

First, we made a lot of frames from colored construction paper and stuck white paper behind them. We used thick white sketchbook-type paper for this but white construction paper is great, too. I let the girls use my fancy scissors, and they made arty borders. 

We made a few frames with black canvases, for crayons and pastels.

Then we set out some art materials - crayon rocks, water-soluble crayons and watercolor pencils and cut bits of paper for collages.

And the girls made their art pieces while I fancied up some of the frames with markers.

Kate was deliriously happy to be allowed to cut up paper with all the pairs of scissors.

And then we had a brief lunch intermission. Look - food and art supplies on the same table. Sometimes we relax the rules! 

I'll share an interesting twist to this activity - none of the girls actually knew what an art museum was like! Emily went to one as a baby but she didn't remember, of course. And the girls have seen museums on TV, but that was it. 

So we talked about it. We talked about what museums were, and the kinds there were. We talked about curators, and brochures, and how large and small the exhibits were. We talked about dinosaurs and mobiles and spaceships and interactive machines, and weapons of war and history and produce and sculpture gardens and vintage Barbies and old instruments. And art.

Then I remembered this series of magazines I bought years ago in Singapore:

This was during my I Am An Uncultured Buffoon And Need To Embrace The Fine Arts phase that sometimes strikes post-college young people. I diligently collected as many of these magazines as I could, and then never read beyond the first or second issue. I saved them though, because they were like a Fine Art For Dummies subscription, see -

and I suspected they would come in handy someday. 

Good old culture! I am no more informed today than I was back then, but it was fun to just look at the pictures with the kids, and marvel at the different styles. Emily loved Seurat's pointillism - "it's just dots!" 
Then we pulled up some photos of Emily's infant-trip to the museum and tried to spot some of the paintings in the magazines. 

This is a sample of some of the pieces the girls did:

Emily's collage- "Sunset":

"Rainbow" by Emily (blue frame) and by Jenna (purple frame):

Still life: disparate fruit sans bowl by Jenna

"Trying To Be A Rainbow" by Kate

We've done art like this many times before, but never within frames. The frames made everything fancy and important and the girls even signed their names in the corners like they'd seen in real paintings.

Emily suggested more ideas for our museum - sculpture like this one, set on pillows on pedestals

and easels with artists at work. She initially thought that museums were full of the actual artists painting their masterpieces for visitors to watch, after which they would sell them. So we talked about most of the artists being dead, and student painters sometimes copying their work in the musuems as part of their homework.

Then we took photos of the girls' work, and made a museum brochure*:

The girls talked about their paintings and we included some of their comments.

And finally, we stuck the paintings on the walls. When Dad came home, we invited him to our museum, presented him the brochure and gave him the grand tour. No photos of the actual museum because the lighting was so poor anyway. And also because the final product was just pictures on a wall and a lone cardboard structure in the middle of the room - very much like any craft scenario in our house on any day of the week. But the process was what most engaged the kids today - from making their own frames to fleshing out the concept of museum to preparing their work for presentation to "the public" (i.e. Dad). It's a pity not all our crafts work out this way - I sure wish they did.  

* Because I know you might ask, our brochure was made with Pages, the Mac equivalent of Word-plus-some-Front-Page-stuff. It has templates that we can modify and add photos to.


  1. I'm a bit confused with Rainbow, by Jenna. In your brochure it's shown as a piece in a portrait format but in the individual shot it is in landscape. How did the artist envision it? I think it's lovely both ways and really enjoyed a virtual tour through your museum! :)

    This reminds me of the Arthur episode where Binky discovers a museum had hung a painting the wrong way up. Which will be a pointless reference if you don't watch Arthur but I'm including it anyways.

  2. this is so wonderful! i love that your children created their own art museum before ever visiting an existing one~

  3. You really are the best mom ever. I love the brochure. We have also had art galleries at our house but never on this scale. We will have to do the frames next time. And where did you get water-soluble crayons? We need some of those.
    Great post. :)

  4. A wonderful idea! I love your´s daughters art!

  5. Brilliant! I'll file this away for weekend wet weather activity - with the narky weather systems coming our way, I'm sure gonna need it real soon :)

  6. wow, what a neat idea! I will have to file this away for someday-when-i-have-children... :)

  7. How awesome! And a brochure, even. I loved the comment about the snowman not having a hat! :)

  8. hey! brilliant school teacher in action! SO PERFECT. Now I hope you take them to a real museum. We are so lucky in that the park behind our house has an art museum with free admission. I'm going to play art museum with my kids a la ikat bag, and then I'm going to take them over there. Usually my husband and I take turns sneaking over there Sunday afternoons while the kids sleep off church.

    One of the things I thought I'd be able to do as an adult is understand classical music and art. Not sure how. Why I thought I needed to do this or why I thought adults knew, I'm not sure. ..

  9. You are such a lovely mum! These are the kinds of activities I dream of doing with the children but never actually fulfill. Please keep inspiring us. Lucy x

  10. So cool!! I love it -- best mama and little artists ever : )
    Those magazines look awesome.

  11. A question: What do your kids do while you're working on an adult part of the project? For instance, scanning in the artwork here, or gluing together cardboard with the hot glue gun?
    It's those times, when they can't wait, that unhinges projects around here. If they can't finish it in ten minutes, they don't want to do it.

  12. Anna: that's a great question! I don't think I have a quick answer for that. We do crafts primarily in two places in our house: the kitchen table (for the messier ones) and the sewing room. I try and do as much prep work beforehand as possible. Sometimes the projects involve the kids only doing the last stage decoration e.g. the cardboard ships I made. So I'd make the whole thing the night(s) before with the glue gun and produce the things ready for the kids to work on. If this adult-part comes in the middle of the project, I usually tell the kids to go play by themselves for a while so Mum can bake the clay, or glue on the stands, or stuff like that. They usually are good at that. Both venues for crafts are close to their natural play areas, so they can be in the next room cooking toy food or something, while I finish up. Or, if it's too close to dinner (often happens), I'll plan to do the adult-portion that night while they are asleep. Either way, it often feels as if the project is over by that time. We are used to projects that take a whole day (the short projects bore the kids) or several days. Not all the kids will want to continue past Day #1; my eldest usually will, and my youngest is game for anything messy any time of the day, any day of the year, but my middle will want to run off and play princess or something.

    And I don't know about you, but we find that we are ALWAYS interrupted mid-project by a meal or two! It drives me out of my mind.

  13. This is such a wonderful idea! Seems like something that might even work for a play date?

  14. Love it! You've just given me an idea for a rainy day activity this summer. Actually I see this taking me and my kids a whole week to put together.

    (Also, beautiful wedding dress in the previous post, just beautiful!)

  15. Gah, sorry. I tried to comment a couple of days ago, and then my computer crashed and, well.. yeah.
    I like some of the things you have pointed out. Not everyone has to finish the project. I could do prep work. Quick vs detailed. Hmm. Thanks!


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