Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Children and Parents Decoding a Museum

This quote popped out to me this morning about the importance of taking your children to a museum. Being at the museum together shows that you and your child are equally engaged in learning and levels the playing field. The quote linked to a larger selection of quotes from other arts educators at various museums showing a broader approach. I particularly enjoyed the quote from Adera Causey at the Hunter Museum of American Art who talked about parents being unaware about the items in the museum as they are not regular visitors or well versed in the arts and having to deal with their kids questions. It expands on Jamee Yung’s original quote about the shared learning process. Having been a child that was at first dragged through a museum, I would not be here with my parents doing that. I’m curious how many others benefited from their parents doing the same as mine did and which museums did they visit.


4 comments on “Children and Parents Decoding a Museum

  1. hshambroom
    September 4, 2014

    Last weekend I visited the Koons retrospective at the Whitney and was interested to see tons of children there with there parents. His work does lend itself to a parent-child outing as much of it is cartoonish and he uses bright colors and shiney materials, but I was surprised as I had never seen quite that many children in a museum before.

    I was interested to see the way the parents engaged their children with the work. Two instances stood out to me – there was one mother who had two daughters who looked to be about 8-10 years old. They were looking at some of Koons’ Venus of Willendorf piece (, and the mother was asking her daughter all kinds of questions about the material – why he would have chosen a shiny material? What did she think that he was depicting a very old image in a brand new shiny way? I would not have anticipated that a 10 year old would consider an artwork in that way, but the daughter had very thoughtful answers.

    In another instance, a mother had giver her young son a sketchbook, and he was drawing some of the works. I encountered them several times as I went through the exihibit and each time, the son was dragging his mother into another gallery, telling her he wanted to look more closely at one of the works, or revisit a piece theyd seen.

  2. evanjsanderson
    September 5, 2014

    A key term that stuck with me in reading this is ‘accessibility.’ We had an interesting conversation about this very thing last night in Marketing class – how do you make the experience of art accessible to the widest range of guests? That becomes more difficult when you take into account that the definition of accessibility shifts. Some people might want a museum environment that is quiet and contemplative, while others might want something that is more kid-friendly. I love the idea espoused by the Hunter Museum representative; “They express concern that the children will ask questions they can’t answer. We always encourage them to look at it as a shared inter generational learning experience in which they grow together.” We often think about how parents can teach children within the Art experience, but this viewpoint includes the concept that children can actually teach their parents! I believe that this interactivity is something the Arts is particularly adept at, and this article sparked an interest in me to attend an Arts event with a wee one. I’m going to be an uncle soon, so the opportunity is going to come up quickly, and you better believe we’ll be visiting some museums. Thanks for the great article find, Helene!

  3. carolynsupinka18
    September 5, 2014

    I loved the wording of the main quote, about how museums can encourage learning as a ‘democratic process’. Childhood really seemed like a very undemocratic time. Museums can be a way to provide a sense of confidence and identity to children at a time when nothing seems fair and the world might seem overwhelming to engage with. Art is something people spend their entire lives trying to understand–people struggle to figure it out whether they are six or forty.

    From personal experience, I really identify with the sentiment behind this quote. I grew up in a small coal town about two hours outside of Pittsburgh, and I still remember how excited I would be when my mom or dad would take a day off of work just to drive me to the museum. We would spend the whole day just wandering around, exploring, talking, and drawing, and drive back late at night. I remember watching the city disappear behind me in the darkness, feeling exhilarated at what I had just seen and the possibilities it suggested. I’m always going to be grateful to my parents for taking the time to give me access to museums like the Carnegie and the Andy Warhol Museum in the southside, and for figuring art out alongside me.

    I agree with Evan that accessibility should be viewed from multiple angles, so that nobody who might benefit from the experience should feel excluded. The Blue Star Museums quotes gave some great tips that shifted responsibility for providing access and preparation onto the families themselves, rather than solely on the museums. Museums and families should aspire to meet each other halfway on this issue, so that both are prepared for each other.

  4. sarasps85
    September 10, 2014

    I just read the “programs for families” in “Standing Room Only” and surprised to see that there is not that much potential on this kind of initiatives in terms of revenue. I hope this will not keep institutions to do it as you all mentioned: going with you family to an arts event is something memorable.
    The question is: using families as a marketing target and create conditions for “more children inside” museums and theatres are two different things and that is why I completely agree with Evan – accessibility is the key question.
    But maybe these kind of approaches are also creating “fears of attendance”. When you have so many programs for families you think that´s the only time you can bring you child with you…
    What do you think?

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