Field Trip: Explore This Museum!

Yesterday we all visited the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum of Art for a family open house. Various activities were going on throughout the afternoon. When we arrived, a Tours for Tots group was just gathering. G noticed the assemblage of people her size and went to join them, so her dad went on the half-hour tour with her, and the boys and I headed to the classroom (which is right off a gallery, not isolated from the exhibits) to see what the day’s activity was all about.

Immediately upon seeing those books, I thought of How To Be An Explorer of The World by Keri Smith. (My husband did, too; we own a copy.) But this booklet was written specifically with the Museum’s current exhibit, Made in the UK, in mind. So the various explorations are keyed into specific works of art, asking us (of course I took one too!) to look closely at, for example, the Roger Hiorns sculpture (number 6 on this PDF image sheet). “What do you notice about the piece?”

Says N, age 7: It has pompoms. It is made up of sticks.

Says V, age 9: It is three metal poles. The blue is pom-poms, but far away it looks like flowers or torn-apart balls. The pom-poms look like they are hanging off strings. Crystals on pom-poms.

Says me: Looks like rock candy. Crystals. Rusty in spots. Coral. Organic. Upside down. Blue, green. Grown on wood? Looks grown, not made.

Turns out the artist dipped dried thistles in a solution that grows crystals, then attached the thistles onto the poles. (I found this page that explains more. It’s similar to what we read at RISD, but I wasn’t taking notes then!) I would say we were pretty observant in our investigation!

The green postcard in the photo above has tips for closer looking on the back.

It starts with “Look: What do you notice? Draw: Find a line within the artwork, trace it in the air with your finger. Draw: Draw that same line on your paper.” And it goes on from there. We didn’t have time to use the postcard today, but I think it’s fabulous.

I also think the construction of this book is fabulous. The cover is cardstock, a piece a bit longer than the page pieces, so that the back cover can be folded over a bit and stapled, forming a flap to tuck the front cover into. The pages are held in with a rubber band, and when we were finished exploring the exhibit, we went back to the classroom, where tables were set up with pieces of paper and tape so that kids could add more pages to their booklets. V added pages, plus a pocket.

(We love pockets in our notebooks.) The simple construction means this would be easy to do at home–in fact, think of the possibilities of creating one of these yourself, catered to your own surroundings. It doesn’t have to be for works of art in a museum. You could make an Exploration Book for a walk in the park or your neighborhood, with activities to help you and your children stop and observe (I definitely recommend the Keri Smith book for inspiration). Making some of these is now on my (long) list of Ideas to Try.

N was happy to find a selection of colored pencils back in the classroom, because he’d been a little frustrated about drawing what he saw in the gallery, using only a regular pencil. He was anxious to add some color.

He then went on to make a tape sculpture and several 2-dimensional tape drawings and then a drawing on vellum with pastels, because vellum is so cool (I think so too).

G, of course, knew exactly what to do with all that colored tape.

The colored tape we have is all the same width, and how exciting to have a variety of lines to work with! We might need to expand our supplies.

RISD is making a great effort to make families feel welcome and engaged in the museum. It can be a bit of a challenge for us to get there–it’s about 45 minutes each way, and parking is always tough in the city–but it’s well worth the effort. I’m still trying to figure out a way to get G to more Tours for Tots, because they end at about the same time I need to be picking up my big kids from school, but N and I are planning on taking a class together, which I think will be fun for both of us.

What sort of Explorer book might you create? Does your local art museum support families? If so, how? (And if not, could you suggest some ideas?!)

One thought on “Field Trip: Explore This Museum!

  1. upsidedowncookbook

    Glad you enjoyed your visit to the Museum! Full disclosure: I’m the Director of Development for the Museum, and proud of our efforts to appeal to families and people of all ages through educational programming. Remember that you can park in RISD lots on the weekends, and the MetroPark lot on N. Main and Steeple St. is only two blocks from the Chace Center entrance. Hope to see you here again soon!

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