Field Trip: RISD Art Museum

Another Sunday, another trip to an art museum. This time, the art museum of the Rhode Island School of Design (known as RISD, pronounced Riz-dee). The purpose of this visit: to see the Impressionist galleries (“Monet and his friends,” as N says, after Linnea) and participate in the Open Family Studio, the theme of which was “Rip, Tear, Fold.”

On our way to the Open Studio we checked out the 20th Century Gallery, where we got to see a Jackson Pollock and a Bridget Riley in person. The Exempla exhibit, which is interactive, has been a hit with the kids every time we’ve visited since it opened. And we all love to visit the big Buddha.

But N very much wanted to visit Monet and his friends.

He got close to see the dabs of paint. He backed away to see the overall effect.

“Me, too,” says G.

These galleries are, I think, my favorite place in the museum. They are so calming to me. It’s not that I don’t like the more contemporary art (I do, very much) or the ancient art, or many, many things in between, it’s just that when I walk into the Impressionist Galleries, I feel like I’ve just taken a deep breath of sweet, meadow-green air.



Some practical advice for taking children to an art museum:

1. Don’t take hungry (or tired) kids to the museum. It’s about a 45-minute drive for us, so we gave them food on the way and food again once we got back into the car.

2. Know what you want to see. You can’t see it all, not in one visit, anyway. If you feel you must see everything once you’ve paid admission, take advantage of free days or “pay what you can” days, check if your local library has a membership pass you can borrow, or consider buying your own membership. Any of those options take the pressure off on feeling like you have to get your admission’s worth, and when you’re not feeling that pressure, it’s going to be a better visit with kids.

3. If your art museum has times or programs geared towards kids, try to take advantage of those. It was good to balance our looking with some doing. (I wonder if they trained the guards ahead of time? I could tell all those children in the galleries were making some of them twitchy, but they were trying really, really hard not to show it.)

4. Limit the visit length and timing depending on the age of youngest child. We were probably there about an hour and a half, maybe a little more. Get out before the kids start to lose it. We visited in the morning, because that’s the best time of day for a two-year-old. (You will never find me anywhere with all three children in the late afternoon unless I absolutely can’t avoid it.)

5. Remind them not to run and not to touch (unless the exhibit invites them to, as the Exempla exhibit does), but invite them to look and ask questions. If we want kids to grow into adults who value art museums, we need to let them be kids who feel welcome in art museums. I really appreciate the effort RISD is making, with the increase in family programs, to welcome families with children, even young ones.

6. Have fun. Look. Talk about what you see and what you’re interested in, too. Buy some postcards of favorite works on the way out. G brought a postcard of the big Buddha to bed with her the night of our visit.

If you have any other ideas or tips that have worked for you and/or stories about visiting an art museum with a child (or two or six…), please share them in the comments!

Visiting the art museum = happy.

6 thoughts on “Field Trip: RISD Art Museum

  1. Michelle

    We have a gazillion local galleries and a monthly evening artwalk downtown, but I haven’t spent nearly enough time there with the kids. You’d love it here. We have an amazingly supportive artist community. Our university museum hosts a free toddler tuesday program, but I heard some negative comments years ago and just never made it out to try for myself. Now that I have Harper . . . ooh, I can’t imagine her in a museum.
    The big buddha looks awesome!

    1. amy @ kids in the studio

      We have a great artist community here, too–not just in the cities but all over. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of more of the evening offerings once Miss No-Nap doesn’t have that 6:30 nursing-to-sleep bedtime. šŸ˜‰

  2. margaret owen

    Terrific post! Your practical advice is excellent. I think many museum goers tend to feel obligated to a long visit but I feel that this can really get in the way of learning to enjoy the museum (with or without kids). Best to find free or discount passes and make a short trip to build fun memories and an appetite to come back again.

  3. Rachelle

    Amy – this is a fabulous post with such good mommy-tested ideas for a happy visit. I also wouldn’t be caught at a museum with my kids late in the day. D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R!! Good for the RISD guards for holding back and not squashing the kids’ enthusiasm. Not all museums are so kid-friendly.

  4. Pingback: Painting Like Monet | kids in the studio

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