“What would you like to draw today?” The question that art teacher Henry Schaefer-Simmern used to start each lesson is the same that is asked of the Children’s Museum of the Arts (CMA) littlest visitors. The museum’s latest exhibit, “Art Forms: 75 Years of Art Education,” is no exception to that idea.
The highly interactive display is the first of its kind for CMA; pairing antique children’s artwork with contemporary pieces from 18 local public schools. The work of famous art educators Leon Bibel, Henry Schaefer-Simmern, and Sona Kludjian are featured in the exhibit, alongside designs from their students.
The art on display, from the 1930s through today, illustrates what was important to the students’ of the early twentieth century. Executive Director David Kaplan’s favorite part is the works that Sona Kludjian donated. “I love that era; so much was going on like the Civil Rights movement,” he says. “It’s cool to see what young people were creating then.”
“[The exhibit is] focused on art education; all the works have to do with the relationship between teacher and student,” Kaplan explains. “There’s a big mentorship component to the exhibit and that’s what CMA is about—teaching artists to empower kids.”
Walking around the Art Forms exhibit, it’s hard not to be empowered to create; every few steps presents another opportunity to get creative. Children can draw in the gallery and then hang their picture in the “exhibit your art” section. If your little ones are budding authors, they can write messages and connect them to the “poetree” hanging in the middle of the gallery. There is also a clay room, a loom that visitors can add to, and more stations for creating masterpieces.
“Shhhh” is one sound not often heard around the museum. Kids are welcome to roam around, talk, play, and create as they wish. As Kaplan puts it, “I hope they come in and are inspired…that they look at art and look at themselves differently. I hope they leave CMA as an artist.”
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