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Away We Go…

It’s coming up on Memorial Day, kids getting out of school, road trips and, hopefully, some great day trips. I am off to Sebago Lake Rug Camp (in Maine) and since I have never been to it before, there is the excitement of going to a new place as well as the always-wonderful anticipation of going off to any rug camp.

I came across this photo, above, from the Belvedere Museum in Belvedere Palace, Vienna, Austria, and fell in love with the photo. I’ve never been to that museum, but the image of this little girl encountering that larger-than-life artwork communicates the experience of seeing any museum. The magic of going through a museum is about getting out of your own usual life and experience for a little while, seeing the creations made by artists from different eras of history, how they captured the people, costumes, landscape and milieu of their time and place, trying to grasp the designs and techniques that go into any fine work of art.

Just take a second look at the photo and let it sink in a bit.

As you set goals and think of outings for your summer, do try to work in a museum or two – it is so good for all of us! And try to take a kid or two along. You’d be surprised (or saddened) at how many kids have never been to a museum.

It doesn’t matter that you can’t easily get to Vienna or Rome. New England (and most states) have terrific big-city and regional museums, and most towns have little history museums, or historical homesteads.

Here in New Hampshire, there is the Currier Museum in Manchester, but also the Canterbury Shaker Village, Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, and the wonderful St. Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish. There are railroad museums and town museums, a telephone museum and a great state history museum. It doesn’t matter what sort of museum you pick – they all take us out of our own lives and time, and enlarge our perspective. Look around for a museum, then go and, well, look around.

If you are going on a road trip, google the area and see what sorts of museums are along your route. You don’t have to go nuts, just pick one, and stop to check it out.

You do not have to see the whole museum. It is probably better to slow down and look at a few paintings or exhibits, instead of feeling like you have to rush through in order to see everything. Slow down. If you find yourself walking at a fast clip, giving only a glimpse and a nod here and there, you are probably tired, or have had enough. That is okay.

In each gallery or room, pick one painting or work (like the little girl in the photo) and just stop and look. Absorb what is going on with the lines, the curves, the diagonals – the composition. Why did he put that there? What has the artist done with the use of colors? If you could get to take home just one painting from the exhibit, which one would you pick, and why -that is, would you like looking at it day after day? If you could choose one or two details to make into a rug design, what would you pick?

Take a little notebook with you, just so you can jot down ideas. Once you start looking at creative works, often creative ideas will jump into your own mind. Catch them while you can!

If you are taking kids along, once you get home, ask them to draw a picture about going to the museum, or about something they saw there. See what happens.

Today, the Belvedere Museum houses the greatest collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. The home, studio and gardens of Augustus St. Gaudens (online here) in Cornish, NH, offers afternoon concerts, working artists, and plenty of gardens (with St. Gaudens’ wonderful sculptures) for kids to explore. The Currier, in Manchester, has a big Monet exhibit opening July 1st (online at currier.org). And here is a website listing museums of all kinds, state by state:

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