In celebration of Mother’s Day, several Blanton moms talk about the role that art and museums play in the lives of their children …
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and as a child I would visit art museums both in a classroom setting as well as on weekend outings with my family. As a kid, the quiet and structure of a hushed museum could be difficult, but every now and then a particular artwork would catch my eye and I would stay with it, get lost in it, and let its imagery soak into my memory. Now, I work with prints and drawings as a paper conservation technician at the Blanton Museum and in my copious free time I am a sculptor. I’m positive those frequent visits to art museums helped shape my aesthetics and my career.
As a new mother, I introduce my ten-month old daughter to as much art as I can, both at home and at The Blanton. I believe early exposure to art will help her develop a unique aesthetic, enhance her visual cognition — which ultimately helps with complex concepts like language, mathematics, and science — and will give her a visual narrative of our world history. She has a unique opportunity to see the artworks over and over again when she visits me at the museum and to see works that do not go on exhibition that often. She also gets to enjoy little perks, like a private tour when the museum is closed…
— Jamie Berlant-Levine, paper conservation technician, and mother of Stella
Art has always played a major role in my life. From viewing street artists in New Orleans as a small child, to my first trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I can clearly recall being mesmerized by the beauty and creativity of the objects I encountered. I remember wanting to learn more about the artists — geniuses, all! — and these experiences would prove to shape my education and my career path, years later.
My son Sawyer is two years old and has visited The Blanton on several occasions. He is really too small to appreciate anything he is seeing, although he does seem to respond well to the brightly hued Abstract Expressionist works from our Michener Collection! I am excited to see whether or not art will be a guiding influence in his life. As a parent, I believe that I have the responsibility to expose him to art and culture of every sort. While I certainly hope that it will resonate with him as powerfully as it has with me, there is no guarantee. Maybe Sawyer will be drawn to science or athletics, and while that does not necessarily preclude a love of art, his interest in things visual could be nominal. Whatever the case may be, I believe his exposure to art will in some way influence his world view and broaden his horizons, and that is a tremendous thing.
— Kathleen Brady Stimpert, Director of PR and Marketing, and mother of Sawyer
One of the most rewarding and exciting things that can happen to a parent is to see things through your child’s eyes. The sense of wonderment and fascination that children find in very normal objects is amazing. When you expose them to things that are meant to inspire, the light in their eyes really turns on and you find yourself seeing things in ways you never thought possible. Museums are an excellent source of inspiration: whether it is the very tactile children’s museum, a natural history museum, or a museum full of great masterpieces, you can find yourself amazed by how your child sees things and perceives them in ways you never thought possible. Their wonderment as young children, to their deeper insights as young adults will surprise you and give you that special glimpse of the person they are growing to be. It is important that we as parents teach our children to imagine a world bigger than their own with endless possibilities and a museum is an excellent place to start.
— Stacey Cilek, Director of Finance and Administration, mother of Regan and Taylor
I’ll admit I haven’t yet brought my 3-year-old daughter to The Blanton. It’s not that she wouldn’t love it; her Crayolas and safety scissors are just about her favorite toys. I’m just afraid that she will immediately dive into the shiny pennies in the Cildo Meireles installation, or sit on one of the Greek plaster casts and demand that I take her photo (like she does with the mannequins at Old Navy). But I am looking forward to the time when she is ready to enjoy the art here at The Blanton. I have been fortunate to visit many of the world’s greatest museums: the Tate in London, the Prado in Madrid, the Louvre in Paris. I’ll never forget the reverence I saw on the faces of guests looking at Picasso’s massive Guernica. Or how Michaelangelo’s beautiful Pieta has to be protected behind bullet-proof glass, because someone had attacked it with a sledgehammer. I want my daughter to see that museums are not just a place to look at pretty things; we go to museums so we can feel.
— Erin Garcia, Special Events Manager, and mother of Keira
Like most families, we gravitate to museums when we travel. Natural history museums, art museums, history museums, you name it, we go. Also like many families, too often we save our museum experiences for vacations and fail to take advantage of the museums within our own reach. Although my children have visited Austin’s local museums, their trips have been infrequent, and certainly not timed to take advantage of new exhibits or museum events. As my children have grown, however, I realize what an impact their museum exposure has made on their lives. Their best vacation memories are often the ones made in museums. They can pull out facts and observations based on museum visits when I thought they were not paying attention and bored to tears. Although we used to have to threaten and cajole in order to get them to an art museum, I now have a child who is about to begin architecture school, and another who is passionate about photography. The lesson for me in all this is that you never know what positive impact even infrequent exposure can make on young minds. Go when you can and take your kids. Even if they act disinterested, you never know what might stick!
— Molly Sherman, Development Director, and mother of Hattie and Mary Alice and Hasie and Clara
I like to take my teenage girls to a place where they can explore their world on a more adult level. When I’ve take them to museums, including art museums, they seem to have a more adventurous spirit and curious nature than in their normal daily routine. They don’t read every label or make all the connections that museum staff so carefully design, however, they know the possibility exists to find new information and broaden their horizons. I’ve always tried to encourage curiosity and make that a fun part of their life. If I can keep that going through their teenage years, I feel like they will be life-long learners and enjoy growing at every life stage.
— Martha Bradshaw, Manager of Visitor and Volunteer Services, and mother of Elizabeth and Madeleine
Twenty-three years ago, when my maternity leave was over, Danny came with me daily to the art museum where I was director, a newborn in his baby bucket gurgling fairly happily while I worked. That succeeded for about three weeks, as I recall, and then his dad, a novelist who worked from home, got to keep him during the day. Nonetheless, he came to all the public events with me for years, both in Aspen and in New Orleans, where we moved shortly thereafter. “Art-babies,” I called the kids of my colleagues and artist friends —we brought them to every event/program/show, and they were admired and loved by those vibrant communities with the focused attention art-lovers so easily give.
Danny has no memory of this, of course, and it was only rarely documented. We taped a great video of one of our last days in New Orleans, and the 5-year-old is exploring (with eyes, not hands!) the giant block of ice that had been shipped from Boston to NOLA by a group of artists we were working with at the Contemporary Arts Center. Years later, based in Austin, I remember Danny’s excitement at seeing the Jacob Lawrence retrospective at the MFA Houston with a school field trip, his art enrichment now made possible by a larger universe. For awhile in his middle school years, he had less interest, and we let him stay home or be with friends. Now an adult, he’s an avid culture-hound, his friends mostly artists, writers, and thinkers, and I see the tribe expanding. Increasingly over the past few years, I’ve turned to Danny for advice on various curatorial choices—”what do you think of this idea,” I ask, or, “do you prefer this one or this one?” — both as a way to share my work with him and because he has an incredibly astute eye. And, as a UT student, he not only worked as a student gallery assistant for a short time at the museum, but he was my own personal “student focus group.” One of my favorite museum moments was sharing my Desire exhibition with Danny and his new girlfriend. Surprisingly, they were both comfortable enough to do that with me, and I was thrilled that they were so open and insightful. Certainly most kids don’t have parents who are arts professionals, but I do believe that all that art and culture exposure throughout his life has helped make Danny the creative, intelligent, perceptive, and caring guy that he is. And he gets his great sense of humor from his dad!
— Annette Carlozzi, Deputy Director for Art and Programs, and mother of Danny