Children and art exhibits rarely find themselves keeping the other company. And, truth be told, most youngsters probably like it that way.
But a recently unveiled exhibit at the Museum of Church History and Art is designed to bring children and art together. Organizers hope the display, entitled "And We Lived After the Manner of Happiness: A Children's Exhibit for Families," will introduce young people to the visual arts while reinforcing gospel lessons taught in family home evenings, Primary and Young Men and Young Women classes.
"One of the purposes of this exhibit is to help children learn to appreciate art and what it can mean to them," museum director Glen M. Leonard said. Parents or other grown-ups, he added, are vital cogs in helping children best understand both the artwork and its varied gospel messages.
The exhibit includes 17 paintings, sculptures and photographs gleaned from the museum's permanent collection. The exhibit's intended audience is immediately apparent. First, the artwork is displayed at a child's eye level. The exhibit team has also placed colorful, child-friendly labels near each piece, along with an accompanying label written for teenagers and adults. Each child label introduces a gospel or family theme found in the piece then asks the young viewer to discover other meanings in the painting or sculpture.
Some activities, like finding peace symbols in a dove-filled painting about pioneers, will delight youngsters. Other activities are more challenging, requiring parents to talk with children about abstract concepts such as love or repentance.
Talking is key, Brother Leonard said. Leave any notions about "museum silence" behind. Moms and dads are encouraged to read the labels out loud with their children and discuss each work before moving on to the next. Parents, let children develop and talk about their own interpretations and then ask how each painting or sculpture makes them feel.
And don't rush. Brother Leonard recently spotted a father hurrying his child through the exhibit, not taking time to read labels or talk. Plan on spending at least an hour in the exhibit to fully enjoy the experience, Brother Leonard advised.
Besides offering an introduction to art, the exhibit also celebrates families living the gospel.
"We have selected paintings and sculptures that show family members engaged in activities that bring them inner peace," exhibit curator Cecile Nugent said, including "honoring promises made to each other and to God, serving one another, remembering ancestors, nurturing children and working and playing together."
Featured Latter-day Saint artists include Gary Kapp, Walter Rane, Judith Mehr, Lee Udall Bennion and photographer George Edward Anderson.
Museum docents will be on hand for tours and to answer questions. The exhibit runs through Feb. 19, 2001. The museum is located directly west of Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah.
You can reach Jason Swensen by E-mail at [email protected]