Why don’t Museums respect Kids?

The most important art to see in Florence, Italy.

We’ve rented a house in a little town in Tuscany called Pistoia. A charming and historic village that happens to be the 2017 Italian Cultural Center. (We didn’t know this at the time of booking the Airbnb)

Good food, good wine, beautiful rolling hills, ideal for running, and art. Lots of art everywhere.

I’ve been really looking forward to this section of our project/trip (The Learning Gypsies) for two reasons: a) When hazel and I decided to embark on this adventure, traveling around the world, visiting the playing grounds of the Greeks, The Incas, the Romans, the Renaissance, and the Spanish Siglo de Oro; I knew I had to dust-off my history high school lessons. So I signed up for the Khan Academy Art History class online, and I’ve been studying since July ‘16.

I timed it so I’d arrived to the Tuscan area just in synch with the Pre-Renaissance period, ready to show my kids all my knowledge and understanding of the significant impact these region, the artists and their work had in the history of mankind.

and b) I love Italian food and Italian wine!

We’ve learned the hard way that Museums in Europe love selling tickets online, so I spent a good part of the day planning our trip to Florence this weekend.

What did I learned?

Kids over 5 pay full price! No special guides/events for families! and no effort to make their beautiful art more accessible for kids!

I think that this is a missed opportunity, not just for Florence’s Museums, but for any museum in any city. (with some few exceptions this is a general problem across countries. An honorable mention is El Prado in Madrid, that has videos online specially made for kids)

I believe this is a case of legacy thinking, coming from generations and generations where art was appreciated only by an elite class, with the refinement to appreciate the symbolism and technique the artists and their masterpieces.

At the Vatican last week we barely saw any kids visiting the Vatican Museum, for example.

I believe that for the most part museums don’t give kids the respect they deserve when it comes to understanding or appreciating art. As a matter of fact, young minds are better prepare to make the symbolism connection than most adults. And with a little bit of help, they enjoy discovering the hidden meaning of paintings and sculptures.

We’ve made an effort to make art accesible to our kids, understanding that art is not an easy subject, that museums are hard places for kids to visit (with their “don’t touch, don’t get close, don’t be loud” policies) and that most kids rather eat vegetables that to spend 2 hours at any Museum.

We’ve reflected a lot about museums, art and education and this is what is working for us:

1- Search online the art work days before visiting the Museum, and explain why its worth seeing it.
2- Get them excited by using pop culture references. We did it with the Coliseum and the Gladiator movie and minecraft, and they couldn’t wait to go there.
3- Make it playful with play pretend games. It worked for us when we visited the Mezquita in Cordoba.
4- Select 4–8 meaningful pieces to focus on, instead of trying to cover everything. When we visited the MFA in Boston, we didn’t make it out of the first room (Egyptian art) because they found it fascinating for 90 minutes.
5- Take a notebook and provoke them to copy details of the art they see. We spent 20 minutes at the Vatican in the Map Hall drawing some of the characters in the scenes of the ceiling, and 30 minutes at the Sistine Chapel looking for characters we had seen in other rooms during the tour.

We’ll go to Florence on Saturday, we’ll visit museums and see the works of the masters, like Masaccio’s 1428 fresco of the Trinity and the first time mathematics and perspective were used in history!!!

I can’t wait to tell them everything I’ve learned about the Republic of Florence, Giotto, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo. What a day it will be!