Insider's View: Art for Parent and Child

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Insider's View: Art for Parent and Child

Ever wondered what happens in an Art for Parent and Child class? We visited a recent summer session to give an up-close view of what transpires when you combine more than 10 toddlers and their caring adults with the creative classroom of one of the nation's top art museums. Mix in two experienced teachers, and you have an equation that equals time well spent on a Wednesday or Saturday morning.

Welcome learners!

"I love teaching children art at this age," says Jeanna Forhan, who has been teaching children at the museum for more than 16 years. "They have freshness, curiosity, and a wonder still in their eyes. When we listen to them, they put things together in a way that we've never even thought of."

The first thing that strikes you when you enter the class is the quiet calm of toddler girls and boys playing with clay. Why are they so quiet? Instructor Kate Hoffmeyer says that making art is a "right brain" activity, and research shows that it's challenging to make art and a lot of noise at the same time.

Finally conversation comes though. The creative play of color makes a wonderful entry into so many other subjects.

• Life Science: Christine and her mommy have crafted a frog, complete with lily pad.
• Nutrition: Gabbie and Miss Kate discussed the art of making pancakes as she fashioned one out of the clay.
• English: Stephanie's mommy commented on what a learning opportunity the class is because her daughter is exposed to great words like "sculpture."

Miss Kate uses the blue and white lines in Sean David's shorts as inspiration for the next lesson in the class. The class goes off to explore the galleries with the assignment of looking for different types of lines along the way. And what do they discover? Lines in the elevator. Lines on the bars of the doors entering the galleries and, of course, lines in the art.

The line discussion continues with a little movement as they make straight lines and curvy lines with their own bodies before ending up in the contemporary art galleries.

With Lee Krasner's Celebration in the background, the class continues the discussion of lines with another opportunity for creative play, courtesy of colorful pipe cleaners. “What kind of lines can you make with these?" Miss Kate asks.

"Bouncy lines," says Max.
"Curvy lines," says Dylan.
"Squiggly lines," says Hannah.

And with those answers for inspiration, they’re off to another search in the galleries. “Can we find a snake in the galleries?" Miss Kate asks. The toddlers and their teams of mommies and daddies are up to the task. Stephanie's mommy takes the opportunity to count the stairs down with her daughter — in Spanish.

The answer to the quest lands them in the newly reopened African art galleries in front of the case of the Serpent Headdress from Guinea, West Africa.

The found object is the source for the final art-making activity of the day. They return back to the classroom to make their own paper headdresses to color and decorate as their imagination inspires.

Inspired by the galleries, participants begin an art activity

Another benefit of the outing? The museum campus presents a perfect opportunity to extend the activity on a summer afternoon.

"We always pack a lunch to eat after the class," says Hannah's mommy. "She loves visiting the museum and University Circle. We have been participating in these art classes for a year and love the fact that you get to see the galleries too. It's a great investment. Kate is an amazing teacher. It's amazing what they learn, because it really sticks with them."

Do you have older kids? The museum has classes for children of all ages. Learn more about art classes for children and teens online. Members receive discounts. September classes start on September 10 and October classes start on October 8. Call 216-421-7350 for details.

Want to make art yourself? You're never too old to learn something new. Learn more about art classes for adults on the museum’s web site.

-- Kesha Williams