I am an enthusiastic art lover and thus doing my best to raise little ones who also appreciate the beauty and complexity of art. In the past, I’ve found some museums and art galleries to be supremely stuffy and generally not kid-friendly. But when I visited the Orlando Museum of Art last week with three kiddos in tow, my youngest and two of her pals, I was pleasantly surprised.
It was a day off from school, and I was sure the museum would be packed, but as we rounded the circle that also contains the Science Center and the Repertory Theater, we were surprised to find the parking lot nearly empty!
I forewarned the girls that they HAD to be quiet and respectful of the museum, but as soon as we walked inside, the staff was jovial and friendly, instantly setting the lighthearted tone for our visit.
We spent over two hours in the Orlando Museum of Art, mostly at the Tall Tales and Huge Hearts : Raul Colon exhibit, which sadly leaves the museum on November 3rd. We also took advantage of the other great exhibits, Heart Works (our favorite piece was the mandala), Flipped and a beautiful collection named Art of the Ancient Americas (featuring gorgeous artifacts dating back to 2000 BC).
What impressed me the most was not the docents’ kindness towards the kids nor the child-friendly corner of the gift shop, but the effort that was put into making the Tall Tales and Huge Hearts exhibit such a full experience. With a free bookmark for each child and a “Dive In” guide for take-home use, the girls truly learned some amazing stuff during our time at the museum. The artist’s unique illustration techniques include a complex set of steps with many, many layers. The girls kept talking about those layers, the base watercolor on the paper, colored pencil drawings next, with extra colors and layers added on top (sometimes as many as eight) and then the final step of scratching the design into the finished piece.
When checking out Raul Colon’s illustrations, the girls pored over the books provided right next to each, sharing with each other which pieces were their favorites. I’m convinced the only reason we left was because their tummies were growling for lunch!
Beyond the gift shop goodies, we now have an appreciation for the works of Raul Colon and we’ve placed all of his books on hold at the library. Even though the girls are just 7 and 8 years old, the story of artist Roberto Clemente encouraged them to take the tools they have and make something of themselves. Dona Flor taught them to always strive to be a part of their community and finds ways to help our neighbors. How to Bake an American Pie won as the crowd favorite though, because they felt fooled into reading the book, thinking it was a recipe book, when instead it reminded them – in very clever ways – of what the United States is built on. For example, “Find a giant melting pot, add a thirst of being free, pat out a crust of fruited plains.”
Orlando Museum of Art, we’ll for sure be back for another visit.
The museum is located at 2416 N. Mills Avenue and general hours are Sunday from noon – 4pm, Tuesday through Friday from 10 am-4 pm (closed on Mondays and major holidays). Admission for adults is $8 and children 4-17 are $5 (under 3 are free). Check out the upcoming Art Adventure in December for a fun family-friendly outing!