Since our last disastrous trip, I have been a bit gun shy about bringing our children to one of the many local art museums we have readily available to us here in Boston. Beyond the psychological damage another failed trip might do to me, I had serious concerns that if we had a similar trip, my children may never understand why we care about exposing them to art.
But a few weeks ago in a moment of weakness, and lured by the promise of free admission, my family ventured out once more – this time to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts (also known as the MFA).
The MFA has always been my favorite museum, but I had not visited since our 10 year old son was an infant, and I was worried that if we had a negative experience I wouldn’t be returning again for many years.
Turns out I had no reason to worry.
Rather than finding twitchy docents looking to pounce upon any potential indiscretion, we found museum staff who where friendly and welcoming. Children were scattered throughout the Art of the Americas wing, sitting on the floor and in museum-provided folding chairs, using museum-provided art supplies to capture the images surrounding them.
After being warned, repeatedly, not to take photographs at the last museum, I was stunned to see countless visitors at the MFA whipping out cameras and cellphones to snap shots of loved ones standing in front of favorite pieces.
The differences in our two museum visits was most striking when we visited the MFA’s gallery of contemporary art. Entering the first gallery, the theme was “Art can be. . .” and the words on the wall as we entered summed up everything I was hoping to offer my children by exposing them to art and artists. Again, the mood was welcoming and friendly.
But the stunner was the curtain of beads by artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres which separated two parts of the gallery. Nearly identical to the curtain of beads at the “other” museum (it was created by the same artist) which we had been warned to “touch but not tug on,” the MFA’s curtain was being touched, tangled and used as a part of many visitor photographs.
I’ll admit to still feelings scarred from our trip to the museum earlier this year. But after our more recent visit to the MFA, I have hope that the new answer to my question “do kids and art museums mix?” is . . . yes, they can.
If the museum wants them to.
What are some of your favorite child-friendly art museums?