There are two kinds of Art People. Art Appreciators, and Art Critics.
Art Critics like to say subjective things about the art, sometimes without even knowing much about the artist or the art movement. Art Critics think they could paint like that, or that they've seen better. Art Critics like the art sometimes... but usually they find a reason not to.
Art Appreciators, on the other hand, see the value in all kinds of art– even if they don't personally like the style, or the subject matter, or the colors. They can express their opinions in an educated way, because they have a little background, and that context helps them to understand the art.
It's okay not to like every painting you see in the museum. In fact, it would be a little weird if you wandered the galleries and LOVED it all.
Raising your kids to be Art Appreciators (or helping your little Art Critic to see things from another perspective) is easy!
1. Model observation in daily life
Art Appreciators look carefully at the world around them. They notice when things are different. They see things that most people miss, and because they are looking, they see little beautiful things everywhere they go. Incorporating a mindfulness practice into your daily routine is a great way to start. Even doing 10 minutes of housework mindfully, or walking barefoot in the backyard for 5 minutes with the intention of observing the beauty of nature, can help you to slow down and shift the way you connect with your day (and your kids). Plus, it's great for them to see you doing these things, because we all know that our kids copy the behaviors they see us doing.
2. Be curious
Art Appreciators wonder, "Why?" They don't usually take someone's word for it when learning a new idea or skill, they need to understand the reason for something, or understand the way it works. This understanding helps them to think critically about art. Help to fan the spark of curiosity each day by answering their questions with questions. Rather than just telling them the answer, guide them down a path where they will discover the answer, or come to their own conclusion.
3. See it from another perspective
You don't have to love everything, but being open-minded to new ideas and being respectful when you don't like something are two tell tale signs that you truly are an Art Appreciator. This way of seeing things from another person's point of view, and trying to pull out one or two positive things about it, reinforces great character traits in our kids. It shows acceptance and tolerance. You can usually find at least one nice thing to say. Instead of, "This is hideous, I can't believe people think this is art!" you could say, "I don't really care for these colors, but I like the energy of this piece." You can also keep your comments objective. Sometimes our personal opinion about the art is secondary. Talk about what kinds of things were going on in the world at that time, and what the artist was trying to say with that piece. Was it motivated by some underlying political or social dynamic of the day? You can think critically about something, and make critical observations without being a critic.
4. Encourage Exploration
Open-ended, and process-based projects (rather than projects that give you step by step instructions to create the art the "right" way or rely on a "good" looking end result to be considered a success) are key to giving kids the freedom to explore with no expectations and no pressure. It sets them on a path of creative discovery that will lead them to enjoy the process, and want to continue creating more in the future.
5. Diversify your art study
Most people have one type of art they gravitate to, but it's fun to mix it up. Art appreciation in your homeschool can include music, literature (and poetry), dance, theatre, and more! There is so much beauty to see in the world, it's nice to know that we'll never run out of wonderful artistic things to explore and that our next amazing discovery might be just around the corner.
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Are your kids naturally more appreciative or critical of art? Find me on social media or leave a comment below to chat about exploring art history with kids.