Father and daughter at museumJennifer Garner, Manager of School and Family Programs, explains why The Blanton makes the perfect setting for holiday family fun…

During the holidays we are so often bombarded by messages telling us what the season should be about—shopping for gifts, decorating (and cleaning) the house,cooking the perfect holiday dinner, and writing cards to every friend and acquaintance, past and present. It often feels like a mad race to get everything done and to make it look effortless, too.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the holiday pressure, and that can take all the fun out of it. At times like this, I try to pause and think about what the holidays mean to me. A getting back to basics approach, if you will.

Ultimately, it means spending time with people I care about. But rather than focusing on all the items on the “to do” list, I prefer that we get out of the house and do something as a family. We get to know each other better through these shared experiences, and for me, that’s the stuff relationships are built on.

It may sound hokey since I work at an art museum, but if given the chance, taking my family to look at art is one of the best holiday outings. I take them around the galleries and show them artworks that are “my favorites” as if they were good friends of mine that they’ve never met. I might tell them a tidbit or two about the artwork or the artist, but I also like hearing what they think of things.

We enKehinde Wiley, Le Roi a la Chassed up having some fascinating conversations. Sometimes we discover something new together, like noticing that the painting From That Day On by Ben Shahn has a red dragon in the background. Or we might discuss questions that we have about something we see, such as looking at Carlo Ceresa’s Portrait of a Widow and wondering what she’s really thinking. My mom, who swears she doesn’t like contemporary art, often surprises me by showing interest in Kehinde Wiley’s or Anselm Kiefer’s work. Of course, we don’t always like the same things, and that’s okay. In fact, those conversations can give me insight into how some visitors might respond to certain artworks in the collection.

Maybe that’s why I like to create family programming for The Blanton. After all, it gives me a chance to set the stage for families to spend time together and have fun. I try to design activities such as art-making or interactive stations that have appeal for kids and adults alike, and I also strive to get them talking about art with each other by offering exhibition gallery guides or gallery games. With that in mind, I always plan Blanton Family Days at the holidays in hopes that, when the dust is settled from all the usual festivities, they will come to the museum and have those great conversations. It’s the best gift I can think to give at the holidays—the magic of really connecting with each other through a work of art.

Blanton Family Days are on December 27 and 28 from 11-4. For more information go to http://blantonmuseum.org/experience_the_blanton/family_programs/.
Images: Father and Daughter enjoying the museum Kehinde Wiley, Le Roi a la Chasse, 2006

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