A couple of weeks ago Jacqueline Maley wrote a post on Daily Life Why Kids Should Be Banned From Art Galleries
Now I’m not about to attack Maley because in her follow up post she stated that she wrote that post in jest and I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.
But what Maley did do is tap into something that is a common held belief that children should not be allowed in the domain of adults. Even though they are public places.
We’ve all heard complaints from travelers about children on flights or even my own post about visiting a local bistro.
For as vocal as the ‘children are a nuisance’ brigade is, there is an equally vocal group of people who insist children be treated as people too. You just need to read the comments in Maley blog post.
How did we get here? Are we are a bunch of individuals who don’t want children to encroach our lifestyle or are we a community voicing genuine concerns?
There’s seems to be a distancing of children, a putting them in a corner…over there…away from here sentiment. It’s not enough to choose to be childless but people want to be childless in every facet of their life. And if they have to endure children in public spaces then they are certainly going to have something to say about it. That sounds harsh doesn’t it? And it is. But is there an element of truth in it?
Let’s take Maley’s post on the National Art Gallery as a case study here.
Yes, the Gallery is certainly not a playground and parents need to be mindful of their children’s behaviour in public but children should not be banned from places like art galleries? Do children get bored? Yes. Will you wiz through it faster? Probably. But last time I checked, ‘time spent admiring’ wasn’t a prerequisite to enter a gallery.
And I disagree with Maley’s point that taking kids to the gallery is aspirational not educational. I’m not entirely convinced that these two things are mutually exclusive. I don’t take my kids to galleries, museum, or theatre because I aspire them to become artists anymore than I take them to the movies to become a filmmaker or have them read books to become authors.
I do these things to provide exposure. Exposure is necessary. It’s been accepted that, for example, active kids generally become active adults. Children who read books become adults that read books.
It’s all about habit forming. Why not art, theatre, charity work, history tours? This is the time when kids start to form opinions on art and culture; what resonates and what doesn’t. This is the time to fill in the vacant slots as it were.
Maybe kids won’t appreciate a gallery as much as an adult but that doesn’t mean they don’t store that information in their brains to call on it later in life; like a planted seed. I mean, half the English texts I read during my highschool years were largely useless to me at the time. My Uncle Chris gave me Plato’s The Republic to read when I was 16. That text went over my head. But, it did plant a seed and now I have The Republic on my bookshelf and pick it up to read excerpts.
And yes you can expose kids to a range of things through books but you tell me, doesn’t the Sydney Harbour Bridge look so much better up close and personal? Doesn’t a song sound so much better when you see it performed live than listening to it on CD? Doesn’t seeing Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series impact you more than seeing it in a book? Why would children be any different? Are they not as open to experience as adults?
My eldest son who is one of those kids who gets bored very quickly and will wiz through things but he stopped at the Ned Kelly series. He even asked if he could buy the postcard on our way out. I was genuinely surprised because I thought he wouldn’t be interested. But hey, I was wrong.
Now on our way out a kind gallery worker told us that upstairs there is a kids section where they could create their own art. And so we went. And my children created their own art. So if the curators of the National Art Gallery see the value of having kids visit, so should the rest of us.
And here’s the thing. It doesn’t take just one visit to a gallery, or the theatre to a) appreciate what you are seeing and b) how to behave in certain social spaces.
With every visit children learn how to behave in public spaces. They understand the social rules of being quiet, not running; This is how we learnt to read social cues, it’s how they will learn.
You don’t just suddenly wake up one day and knowing all of society’s unspoken and unwritten rules.
Now I can’t speak for an entire generation but there does seem to be a widely held belief that children today are doing more ‘adult’ type activities than we ever did. Restaurants, overseas travel, galleries, theatre, musicals.
Maybe that’s true. The question is, is it so bad?
I know I didn’t get any exposure to ‘high brow’ type culture because my parents weren’t ‘high brow’ type people. But they are Greek so they did bang on about philosophy and democracy a whole lot. But I did have a desire as a kid to visit museums and study history. And music, oh my goodness, I remember seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat when I was in primary school. That rocked my world.
But that’s life isn’t it? A coat of many colours? A jumbled mess of experiences that as we get older start sorting out?