By Shelley Gilken
The first piece of art children typically focus on at the Boca Museum of Art is in the lobby. Towering over all, teetering toward the ceiling, is a statue of 13 oversized teacups and five saucers — with a teakettle on top.
The sculpture by Julio Larraz, titled Space Station, is reminiscent of the dancing silverware in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
“Hardly a child six and under isn’t photographed by their parents at the cup and saucers,” said the museum’s interim director, Irvin Lippman.
And so the child’s foray into exploring the art world at the museum begins. Over the summer, there ís another incentive to visit: With the help of a grant, it’s free on Thursdays. A summer-long free day is a concept practiced at many museums around the country. Another example is the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, which also offers free Thursdays in the summer.
“We want to open it to the broadest audience possible,” Lippman said.
Going to an art museum provides parents with an opportunity to enjoy an indoor activity while also introducing their children to the imaginative world of art.
“In a society where everything is digitized and we feel we can get everything on the Internet — there’s something about seeing art in a museum setting. There’s something quite different when you stand before a work that is 15 feet tall,” said Lippman. “It’s something you can’t experience when you’re looking at your phone or tablet.”
Lippman said a tour through the museum typically takes an hour or so. Many children visit the museum over the summer as part of organized art camps or art school, but it can also be a destination for parents who want to introduce their children to art — beginning with the youngest “when they recognize colors,” Lippman said.
The museum features collections of 19th and 20th century European paintings, American art, prints and drawings, photography, modern art, West African tribal art and Asian art.
Lippman said a popular exhibit at the museum for children is the sculpture garden.
“You become part of the sculpture garden. The art comes off the walls and you walk through it,” Lippman said.
But one of the more enlightening types of art children can learn about at the museum isn’t in one of those collections. It is the art of conversation. “You are having to describe what it is you see, and that’s an important thing for all of us to learn. It is great if people talk about what they see. We encourage that,” Lippman said.
Lippman said that asking open-ended questions invites a child to experience the art and really think about and communicate his or her artistic preferences.
“Ask them. What work would you like to take home with you? Why? Because it is shiny or colorful?” Lippman said. “Everyone, whether you’re young or old, is going to have a different favorite work of art. You don’t have to like everything, but it’s always interesting to talk about it.”
And once a child starts talking about the characteristics of art pieces, it could spark even greater interest in the long run. “It is the start of connoisseurship,” Lippman said.
By Shelley Gilken