I have great memories of my first visit to the AGH. I think I was about five or six, and I came with my mother. I recall climbing a huge set of stairs up to the lobby, and there was a neon sculpture on the wall, and some round holographic images installed partway up the stairs. I have since discovered both of those pieces are in the AGH Collection, though I don’t think they’ve been on display for a long time. I don’t remember much of the rest of the visit, but the thing that lingers is the feeling of going somewhere really special, and seeing things made by amazing people called artists.
I often hear from parents who haven’t taken the opportunity to visit a museum or gallery with their young children because they are afraid of bringing them, worried that the Gallery is not really a place for kids. There are fears of artwork being damaged or patrons being disrupted by noise. To these parents, I always respond the same way:
When your children are young, it is the perfect time to take them to a gallery! You will never have the chance to experience such a sense of wonder, of inquisitiveness and fun in a gallery as when you see it through the eyes of a six-year-old. Abstract art, often one of the most intimidating styles for adults, becomes an adventure of colour and shape and imagination. You will see things in ways you couldn’t on your own. The huge doors, high ceilings and large rooms will be new and exciting; and the art – it’s like magic for kids. So much fun – parents, don’t miss out!
During March Break, and the AGH offers camp programs for children ages five to 12 that include gallery tours and hands-on art-making. You’ll be amazed at what your kids can do, and they’ll share with you all the new things they’ve seen and learned. One of my favourite parts of a camp day is seeing all of the parents being led by the hand into the exhibition spaces to see the amazing art their son or daughter learned about that day. I love to listen to the mini-tours given to each parent, and am always impressed by what the children have remembered, and the new interpretations that they share.
Art galleries are most definitely a place for children and families and I hope to see yours soon.