Art Appreciation for the Kids

I got two beautiful things yesterday from the National Gallery. Both are for the kids’ art class. One is a book An Eye for Art and the other is a set of activity cards, Famous Paintings. The book turns out to be not quite their thing at this point of their learning trajectory. The cards, though? That was a brilliant idea. On the back is information about the artist, the painting, the times in which it was painted and an interesting historical fact.

My plan is that out of six cards every few days they will each pick one. It will go into a notebook we’ll make this Friday along with worksheets that tell about the painting and the artist and five reasons they like the painting. I don’t plan to tell them how or why to like a painting. In my humble opinion, there ARE bad paintings, but a lot depends on who’s looking at a painting whether it’s good or not, becomes famous or not. And then there’s personal taste. Because I know them and how they have been raised, I want to stay within their realm of competence, only stretching it a little. My entire goal with the kids is just to get them to look at paintings.

The book is a textbook for art history and art appreciation. What I like about it is its organization — the chapters are not “arty” but instead they look at what the artists were doing in the making of their work. There is a chapter called “Studying Nature” (the first <3) and others “Telling Stories” and “Observing Everyday Life.” I love that. I love the focus ( ha ha ) on artists observing their world and representing it.

I included a geography component to this — in their notebooks they have maps and they have to identify the countries from which the artists come. And, as I was writing this, I realized that the kids are also going to take small journeys through time.

23 thoughts on “Art Appreciation for the Kids

  1. What an inspired teaching plan. Those cards seem like they’ll be really good conversation starters as well as learning tools. I wish art class had been this fun when I was a kid. The National Gallery is amazing (I went during a DC visit) and how cool they offer these materials (probably in the gift shop too). 🙂

    • Yep. They are in the gift shop. I went to the National Gallery when I went to Washington to take, I mean fail, the Foriegn Service Exam. That was the moment I realized I liked wandering around in new cities and looking at art. I saw Picasso’s linoleum cuts and went home and started doing linoleum cuts of my own. I loved that experience and remember it as one of those completely happy times. 🙂

  2. You are brilliant!! The philosophy of the Suzuki violin method is that not every child will become a great musician but they will all appreciate great music. Looks like that is what is happening in the art classes. Art as fun and a way to express the world as they see it. The art appreciation portion is every bit as important as the drawing parts!

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