Did you know that art makes you smart? Well, it’s true. Even the New York Times says so. A study of 11,000 students determined that
visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas that challenge them with different perspectives on the human condition.
This isn’t the only study on the topic, either. Whether visiting visual art museums or musical performances, exposure to the arts expands our way of thinking and appreciation of the world.
On our summer Illinois road trip, Ben and I visited the Rockford Art Museum (RAM) to see their current exhibit, “Printmaker’s Ball,” which runs through September 27, 2015. Before our visit I didn’t know much about print-making. As a business-person, I know that the more colors involved in a screen print t-shirt, the more expensive the shirt. I never knew why. Do you?
About Printmakers Ball
Printmakers Ball, organized by the museum and Curator Carrie Johnson, features 14 printmakers pushing the boundaries of printed art. Five local artists who work together as the “Fatherless Print Posse” (Corey Hagberg, Jarrod Hennis, Javier Jimenez, Greg Lang and Dave Menard), with guest artist Ben Rider, are prominently featured. Each of their pieces, which includes a contribution from each artist, speaks to the chaos influenced by our consumer driven social climate.
As we toured the exhibit, Carrie Johnson explained how the prints are made. Each color must have its own press design. So a simple 2-color design (let’s say a pink flower and green leaf) requires two pressings. The first layer is printed (say the green leaf). Then, the second color can be pressed (the pink flower). The more colors in a print, the more layers there are. Therefore, the more time it takes to print the design. Now you know why multi-colored prints are more expensive!
Ben liked the exhibit as well, because it showed us more than just the print art. Michael Barnes, whose work depicts struggles of mortality and the psychological questions of existence, provided a number of doodles he kept over years of business meetings. While his finished work is thought-provoking and challenges how we see ourselves in the world, seeing how his wandering mind during regular workday activities transformed into these pieces is fascinating. We don’t often get to see how the artist “thinks.”
Rockford Art Museum was founded in the late 1800s to enrich life for the people of the community. It may not rival the scope of the Louvre, but the 1900 pieces in the permanent collection take turns on display, with a special emphasis on Illinois artists. The special exhibitions provide even more exposure to our world through visual arts. Guests to the museum are sure to experience something new each time they visit.
To learn more about RAM: Visit Rockford Art Museum online.
Hours and Admission: The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but closed on New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission is $7/adults and $3/students. Children 12 and under are free. Also, admission is FREE on Tuesdays!
Visiting art museums with kids
When visiting an art museum, remember the purpose! It’s better to spend some time studying a few intriguing pieces than speeding through the whole museum to say you “saw it all.” The purpose of art — and by extension, art museums — is to challenge how we see the world or expand our understanding of it. Inspire a love of art with these tips:
- Take a sketchpad and pencil. Don’t push your kids to draw what they see or anything (unless required for school), but make a sketchpad available in case inspiration strikes.
- Follow their lead. Spend time viewing the pieces they like and don’t force them to explore pieces that are “uninspiring.” To develop a love of art and a critical eye, kids need time to soak it in. Let it. But, when a piece does not inspire, don’t force it. Each individual is inspired differently. Think of it this way: You have a favorite car, home decorating style, or TV show. Some vehicles you find ugly. Some home decor styles would drive you crazy. And, I’m sure there are TV shows you don’t like. Why would art be any different?
- Allow time for it to sink in. Let your kids signal when they’re done. At the Louvre, we hustled to the Mona Lisa (like everyone else), only to be disappointed. GASP! Yes, we saw the world’s most famous painting…. and found it uninspiring. I saw others I loved much more. Ben saw a painting, about 6 feet tall by 8 feet wide that we weren’t allowed to photograph so I can’t tell you which one it was, and declared it perfection. He stood before that painting for almost 30 minutes pointing out the tiniest details to the rest of us. While I can’t remember the painting, I do remember how he was impacted by light and shadow. I can see inspiration from that piece in his own works today.
- Respect others. Before you go to an art museum remind kids of the rules. Look at the art, but don’t touch it (Some museums have signs designating pieces that can be touched). Help them be aware of others in the museum — it’s easy to forget when engrossed in the art. Use an inside voice — art museums tend to have wide open spaces which are tempting places to yell. That’s probably not a good idea.
- Attend a special event. The Rockford Art Museum offers special events throughout the year, as do other museums. In conjunction with Printmakers Ball, RAM offered a printmaking workshop for kids ages 5-12, providing a hands-on opportunity to explore art in the museum setting. Join the mailing list for your local art museum to learn about similar opportunities to expose your children to art.
Did you learn why art makes you smart? Did you catch what I learned about art on this visit? If not, read again! Then take a trip to your local art museum and see how art makes you smart! Or smarter!