Last week the boys and I headed over the the McMichael Art Gallery to take in some ...well...some art. I thought that I would report back here (even though I was not able to take my camera inside the gallery) because it was such a mixed day - good and bad. On the good side, the pieces were beautiful. The gallery itself is a great building, on beautiful grounds, and the collection is fabulous - makes me proud to be Canadian!! (Insert beer commercial here).
On the down side, I have never felt quite so unwelcome at a 'public' place before. I understand that the pieces are very valuable. I understand that they are somewhat fragile and that they are a national treasure. I understand that they don't want little people with peanut-butter-and-jam-y fingers touching them. But holy cow!! There were 2 staff people in each gallery, and rather than walking around answering questions, interacting with the patrons, or (God forbid!) even enjoying the pieces themselves, they walk up close enough to peer over your shoulder and glare. Now, I have two boys. Two young boys. I understand that young boys can seem a little frightening if you don't actually spend time with them. But you know what? As a mother, don't you think that if I thought even for one moment that my kids would cause problems, not listen to my instructions, be destructive or otherwise run amuck that I would find something other to do with them for the day than to visit an art gallery?!?!? Even William, who is all of 6 years old, picked up on the vibe.
So here is my advice for them (and yes, I plan to share my thoughts with them directly, too)...At some point, about 30 years from now, all of the old bitties that are paying the bills now will be dead. Unless you make the gallery if not welcoming, then at least accessible to kids now (yes, well-behaved kids) it will be a pretty lonely place in the future. My kids were excited to be going there. They had specific paintings they wanted to search out. They brought their own sketch books in case they felt inspired. But if I asked them now if they wanted to go back, I am afraid of what their answer might be. The reception that they were given there gave them the message loud and clear that a gallery is not the place for children. That is a great loss not only for them, but for all of us.