Art and Culture

In parenting, there is always tension between the short term and the long term. I want Elena and Roman to be inquisitive and thoughtful, appreciative of the world around them because they’ve been exposure to great, amazing, and profound things. We have to lay the groundwork now, even though we know they aren’t ready for it, because if we try to start when they’re old enough to appreciate it all, it will be too late to get into the habit. And that’s why we keep making the attempts, even though we know that there will be tiredness and fussiness, complaints and breakdowns, and the very real possibility of damaging priceless works of art or irreplaceable historical artifacts.

Leisa and Sam suggested a trip to the Walters Art Museum, and Grandpa Dana and Gran Ann decided to come along as well. The museum had a good activity kit for Elena: she had to search for Degas’ Little Dancer sculpture, then dress up in a replica costume. Roman decided that he and I should roam the galleries, and we eventually found an interesting spiral staircase with some auditory art–a brief sound recording that plays only intermittently; if we hadn’t taken so long climbing the steps, we probably wouldn’t have noticed it. Jenny’s favorite painting of the day was Picasso’s Mother and Child, even though Picasso is usually too modern for her. The rest of us found our favorites in the contemporary art wing. Elena and Roman preferred art that they could treat as interactive, like the giant lips or a curtain made of turquoise beads. Roman reacted very strongly by growling at Andy Warhol’s self portrait; I don’t think he liked it. My favorites were geometric or otherwise mathematical, although I’ll need to do some statistical analysis before I believe Bochner’s numbers really are random. After the museum, we all shared in appreciating a different kind of fine art: the culinary masterpieces at Matthew’s Pizza.

On another occasion, we were very tired from our Boston trip but wouldn’t have another chance to see Grandpa’s band perform for a long time, so Elena and I went to his spring concert. Elena fell asleep in the car on the way, but woke up refreshed when it was time to go in; she was happy that Gran Ann had arrived at the same time so we could walk in together. This was her second concert, and she was very well behaved for the whole thing, although some of her whispers were on the loud side. Our favorite compositions were those by Eric Ewazen, who was at the performance and said a few words. He told us the story of Shadowcatcher, which is based on photos of Native Americans taken about a hundred years ago. One of them was about a dance done by one tribe whenever there was a lunar eclipse: they believed a monster had eaten the moon, so they made a fire and put awful smelling things in it, so that the smoke would force the monster to sneeze the moon out. We listened carefully to hear the sneeze in the music; Elena heard it right away and had to convince me that she was right.

The kids don’t have to participate in all of our cultural activities for them to have an influence. Thanks to the help of two Grandmas–one who gave us the tickets as a Christmas present and the other who took care of Elena and Roman, Jenny and I went on a date to see Hello Dolly at Ford’s Theater, where the presidential box is preserved in remembrance of President Lincoln. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance. When we got home, Elena wanted to hear all about it. She had already asked Gran Ann to sing her the songs from the show. I’m sure that Jenny will take an active interest in fostering Elena’s nascent love of musical theater.


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