July 3, 2013

Guest Post: Visiting Omaha Art Galleries With Kids

Omaha has an abundance of art galleries that are free and open to the public. The bulk of them are located in the Old Market and around the downtown area. You should check them out sometime. Don’t be shy.To get you and your family started on your gallery adventures, I sought advice from two people with a lot of insight:  Writer Suzanne Smith Arney, who focuses often on art, and Omaha painter and printmaker, Lori Elliott-Bartle.

Arney’s tips for enjoying a gallery visit with children:

“For a successful visit that’s fun for everyone, it’s best to do a little prep work.”

I’m a firm believer that there’s something for everyone to love about museums. I say museums (a place to look), rather than galleries (a place to sell). For a successful visit that’s fun for everyone, it’s best to do a little prep work.

Suzanne Smith: "Have your child make a drawing to remember the visit, or buy a souvenir postcard and let her start an art collection of her own."

Suzanne Smith Arney: “Have your child make a drawing to remember the visit, or buy a souvenir postcard and let her start an art collection of her own.”

  1. Check out the website for basics like hours, fees, current exhibitions, and special events, or call and ask what is available for kids. Joslyn Art Museum, for example, has kids’ programs under the “Visit” tab. For little ones,  see “Education,” “Classes” and “Art Adventures.”  And Joslyn’s Discovery Garden and Mind’s Eye Gallery are family must-dos.
  2. Another place to prepare is the library. An advanced search using keywords “museum” and “visit” and selecting “children” as audience brings up a wide range of materials sure to build anticipation.
  3. Do teach your child museum manners. I use the “two feet and ten fingers” rule – stand about two feet away from the art and fingers all still. Even a toddler can learn to hold his hands behind his back and to describe rather than point. The visit is much pleasanter without scoldings!
  4. Have your child make a drawing to remember the visit, or buy a souvenir postcard and let her start an art collection of her own.
  5. Remember to keep each visit short and sweet, and come back often. The objective is to discover, at any age, that art is enjoyable,  interesting, relevant, and even necessary to a whole life.
  6. Besides museums, you can have fun finding art in the neighborhood. Start at www.publicartomaha.org.
  7. An older child who’s interested in art may enjoy a gallery show, especially an opening reception with a chance to meet the artist. Art fairs and the May and December Open Houses at Omaha’s Hot Shops Art Center are wonderful places to watch artists at work.

The late Roberta Rogers, gallerist, collector, docent, and dear friend, liked to say that she’d been bitten by the art bug. If you’re lucky, it could happen to you!

– Suzanne Smith Arney is a freelance writer living in Omaha, Nebraska, who enjoys writing about artists and their work, and the role of art in our everyday lives. Although primarily an art writer, she also writes about family, education, food, and travel. In addition to articles in local, national, and European magazines, Arney has written/contributed to three books. She’ll seize any opportunity to go arting with granddaughters, Kate and Chloe, who always have something new to teach her about art.
Lori Elliott-Bartle: "While the building is open every day, a great time to visit many artists is during an open house, always held the first weekends of December and May."

Lori Elliott-Bartle on Hot Shops Art Gallery : “While the building is open every day, a great time to visit many artists is during an open house, always held the first weekends of December and May.”

Visiting Omaha galleries Q&A with Elliott-Bartle:

Look for opportunities that allow children to engage with and handle the art.

1. If a person has never been into a local art gallery, what can they expect?

You can think of galleries as you might consider different retail shops. Each has its own personality and tone; some are more formal than others. I encourage people to visit several galleries to get a sense about the variety of art displayed and to see a range of media, styles and price points. When entering a gallery, visitors should expect a warm greeting and the opportunity to ask questions. Most galleries have web sites so visitors can preview examples of the types of work they can expect to see during a visit.

2. If they’re planning on bringing children, is there a good time to visit?

In planning a gallery visit with children, I would base the timing on the children. Take kids along when they are well rested and fresh, open to exploring and listening to directions about whether or not to touch things.

Look for opportunities that allow children to engage with and handle the art. In some venues, they can create something of their own.  Family fun days at Joslyn Art Museum, public art displays around the city, special exhibits at Fontenelle Forest, demonstrations at art fairs, gallery receptions, or studio open houses offer chances to touch artwork and learn more about materials, tools and techniques.

3. What are some do’s and don’t of visiting the Artist Co-op and Hot Shops with children?

Both places welcome children, but I think a good guideline is to talk to your kids before you go into a gallery about looking at things but not touching them. An artist will invite visitors to touch something if it’s OK, but wait for the invitation before handling artwork.At Hot Shops Art Center, 1301 Nicholas St. in Omaha, you have the chance to visit the working spaces of artists, and many are happy to demonstrate or describe their techniques and tools. On the first floor, visitors can stroll through galleries, as well as see where the building gets its name by visiting the glassblowers, potters and metalworkers who all use heat to transform their materials. Two additional floors filled with studios allow visitors to find artists who draw, paint, carve, sculpt, print, weave, design jewelry and make photographs all under one roof. While the building is open every day, a great time to visit many artists is during an open house, always held the first weekends of December and May.

Members of the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery, 405 S. 11th St. in Omaha, staff and run the gallery, so whenever you visit, you have the chance to meet at least one of the artist-members. We get to know one another’s work, so we often can answer questions about the styles and techniques other artist-members use. There are painters, potters, sculptors, weavers, printmakers, glass artists and photographers who represent a wide range of styles. If you’re interested in looking at a piece more closely, just ask the member on duty to pick it up for you.

4. Any interesting facts, tips about local artists or fun mediums that parents can point out when walking around a gallery with children? (Kinda like a cheat sheet for parents)

You can always challenge kids to talk about what they see, how the piece makes them feel, what shapes and colors do they recognize, whether it reminds them of something else, like illustrations in a book they’re familiar with or a place or person they know. Depending on how interested they are, you can talk about point of view and perspective, whether it’s realism or surrealism or abstraction, or some combination. Let your imagination open up and build on what you hear from your children.

 
– Lori Elliott-Bartle is a painter and printmaker who maintains a studio on the third floor of Hot Shops Art Center and shows her work at the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery in Omaha’s Old Market. She is one of several artists participating in the upcoming “Play Me, I’m Yours” public art installation, in which pianos will be placed in high-traffic areas around town for people to play. You can see examples of her work on her web site http://lorielliottbartle.com.

Comments

  1. I’m glad you mentioned to keep the visit short and sweet. My husband doesn’t understand. He wants us to go, but talks, and talks. When we went to Santa Fe there was nothing but galleries there. It was fun for my husband, but not as much for me since I deal with the kiddos. I even took them hiking before hand. The boys were done after the first two huge galleries. We kept going though. Then I was done. We sadly missed Georgia O’Keeffe’s museum. I wish we would have went there first.

    • It sounds like your boys are going to grow up to be great art appreciators! Lucky kids. I’ve never been to Santa Fe, but seeing the pictures on your blog from your whole trip, it makes me want to go. 🙂

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