I've been taking Lil' to the Winnipeg Art Gallery a lot lately.
Yes, I will admit it is a bit self-serving in that she is still a little young (read: short attention span) while I am a huge art fan, especially when it comes to landscapes and scenes of great detail. But we bought a family membership this year -- which, at a mere $80 we've more than got our money's worth -- and I tell your our little girl is becoming quite the art buff.
She may not be able to name the artists on display (or talk composition, of course), but we have been having enjoyable little afternoons really getting lost in art at the WAG. We've been looking at all the faces in the paintings and making up stories about the characters, which right now is especially good with all the busy paintings of people that have come in with the Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Gallery Art Gallery (which runs until January 25).
For instance this painting, A Slide by the British Painter Thomas Webster ( 1800-1886), Lil' just can't enough of. Everything is just so alive about it, from the roughhousing of the boys slipping and falling on the ice, to the way light plays on their faces -- especially the one boy who has hurt his arm whose anguished look just jumps out at you. And this is just one section of the work -- there is so much going on. Lil' has given the characters' names even; she gets lost in this painting in a way I can appreciate much more than when she borrows (read: grabs) her mom's iPad at home.
The same can be said about this work below, A Passing Storm by James Tissot (1836-1902). At first glance the composition seems rather simple, just a young girl on a chaise lounge looking longingly while waiting out the weather. But the more you look, as Lil has been doing, the more you see things going on in the background, like the people in the boat in the background (between her body and the table) and all the ships docked in the harbour. Looking into this little world Tissot has created holds Lil's attention for so long, which -- as I alluded to earlier -- is a small miracle in this digital age.
The great people of the WAG have picked up on this fact -- that kids often find art highly entertaining -- and have developed fun, family-oriented programs where we can sneakily educate them while adding a little entertainment and culture capital to their lives.
Their always excellent educational programming is aimed at kids of all ages, including ones as little as Lil'. They get to paint, create and learn about everything from how artists use colours, shapes and lines to portray moods and ideas, to guessing at what the story is that the painting depicts (which of course is Lil's favourite).
If you have inquisitive and artistic little ones, a great introduction to this is their Family Sunday program, the next of which takes place on November 2nd. At this upcoming So Surreal! Family Sunday (1:30-4 p.m., $10 for families and free for members), the WAG's staff will be creating a playful and insightful experience around Salvador Dali, whose works, like the massive Santiago El Grande, are part of their current two-part show Dali Up Close (which also features some hilarious photos of the moustachioed man who Lil' can't get enough of) and Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.
In the words of the WAG, this particular So Surreal! Family Sunday will have an interactive show along with, "weird and wacky games of chance, a dream-inspired art making workshop, and moustache-making-madness," because really, who doesn't want a photo of their kid with a massively curled moustache?
Needless to say, I will be there with Lil', who is super pumped about it.
She's especially excited to learn more about Santiago El Grande because she is fascinated at the small world Dali has depicted below all the action. I think it first jumped out to her as it is at her eye level (the painting is over 13 feet tall!), but the questions she asks about it I find just fascinating: "Daddy, where does that road lead? Do you think it goes to farm with penguins?" To which I am usually too dumbfounded to respond.
But now I can just tell her why don't you ask the nice people a the WAG next Family Sunday?
So pressure is on art gallery staff, because I tell you Lil' has a lot of questions.
*Note: the painting at top is George Chambers' The Crew of HMS “Terror” Saving the Boats and Provisions on the Night of 15th March (1837), which is currently on display at the WAG as part of Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.