My daughter looking at Sidney Nolan's Ned Kelly series

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?

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  • At 2012.05.03 00:38, Enzo said:

    Yes, lets ban kids from all ‘adult’ cultural activities so that these childless morons can spend their latter years complaining further they they are now surrounded by facile, shallow, dimwitted young adults since they were never exposed to anything even remotely aimed at giving them some culture to absorb. Exceptional idea.

  • At 2012.05.03 10:47, Daniela said:

    I have very fond memories of going to the art gallery as a child. I loved it! Whilst I might be tempted to leave my kids at home for the sake of me being able to take my time but since I don’t expect anyone else to have to rush on my children’s behalf I don’t see the Problem.
    I do know my children’s limitations and being so little I wouldn’t take them to an art gallery now, for everyone’s sanity and my blood pressure 😉

    • At 2012.05.03 23:58, Maria said:

      Yes well when Jordan was 2 she rushed at Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles…this time round she just stood and admired 😉

      Enzo and Jordan pair off and I go off with Alex and Christian because even I wouldn’t take as long as Enzo does to look at paintings.

      Love & stuff
      Mrs M

    • At 2012.05.03 16:25, Michelle (mamabook) said:

      I really love this post. And agree completely. Giving our kids a whole range of interesting experiences, which can include but not be limited to popular culture, is so important. And if we want to raise kids who appreciate and support the arts and galleries in the future then we better make sure they are places they feel welcome.
      Too often arts events are attended by a sea of grey heads. Not that there is anything wrong with the greys (I am becoming one of those people) but I think when generations mix it is so much more interesting.

      • At 2012.05.04 00:05, Maria said:

        Hi Michelle,

        I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. We need future galleries goers.

        Listening to my kids critique the paintings was hilarious. We saw an artwork by Picasso which looked like cardboard cut out into square and rectangular shapes. My sons says “I think I can remake that at home with some toilet rolls and a shoe box”.

        Sure…why not.

        Thanks for the visit and the comment.

        Love & stuff
        Mrs M

      • At 2012.05.03 19:24, Elena said:

        This is such a great post and I agree totally. I don’t get people who think that kids are not allowed to experience all that life has to offer just because they are kids.

        • At 2012.05.04 00:07, Maria said:

          Hi Elena,

          I like listening to kids because they tend to see things without all the prejudices that we have as adults. When the kids were saying what they liked and didn’t like about the paintings was a real honest response and weren’t swayed by who the artist was.

          Love & stuff
          Mrs M

        • At 2012.05.03 20:07, Straun said:

          Good choice of topic Maria. I took my daughter to see the Archibald Prize last year in our local gallery in the Tweed (luckily it tours near us). Although she was under two & had a short attention span, there was no doubt that certain paintings stopped her squiggling & she had a good gaze. I chatted to her about what was happening before she started squiggling for something different again. There were a few funny looks I have to say, mixed in with a few smiling & encouraging looks – but taking her was one of my main motivations. I wanted her to be exposed to that & will continue to take her. It’s all about exposing them to a variety of different stimuli to grow their neuro-plasticity & find out what they enjoy. Thanks for posting this.

          • At 2012.05.04 00:09, Maria said:

            Exactly Straun. And to be honest, I’m not the most keen art gallery goer. But just because I don’t really get art doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do my level best to let my kids make up their own minds about whether they like it or not.

            Love & stuff
            Mrs M

          • At 2012.05.10 07:02, Seana Smith said:

            Hi Maria, I have those active children who we hope will grow into active adults… and the boys’ activity levels have really put me off taking them… anywhere! But you’ve given me some food for thought. The twins just turned six and I am sure they would get a lot out of a (short but sweet) visit to an art gallery. They might not agree, but must give it a wee go.

            • At 2012.05.10 18:01, Maria said:

              Hi Seana,

              I just don’t want to get to the other side of their childhood and have them say to me “why didn’t you ever take me to the art gallery, the opera, the museum…” Just covering my bases 😉

              When the Labor party was in power in NSW there was an initiative called “The Premiers Adventure Challenge” I don’t know if you heard of it. But kids got a passport and free entry into a whole bunch of museums and galleries etc. Basically the aim was to bring a bit of culture to the kids. Kids had to visit 3 places and get stamps in their passport. Send the passport in to get a certificate from the Premier. Kind of like The Premiers Reading Challenge.

              But since the Liberals came into power the Adventure Challenge has been scrapped. It’s a shame.

              Thanks for the visit and comment.

              Love & stuff
              Mrs M

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