How To Make a Museum Docent Happy

Ben’s 1st grade curriculum includes a terrific focus on the visual arts. It starts in the classroom, where the students’ tables are named for artists (Picasso, Monet, Seurat, etc), and carries on in the weekly 90-minute art studio sessions, where the boys started with full-size self-portraits and have now moved on to still lifes in the style of Matisse. Ben’s always loved to draw, and he’s got art in his genes, so we figured he would eat this all up, but he’s even more excited about art right now than Tony or I could have imagined. He’s bringing home artists’ biographies (there’s a great series published by the Children’s Press of Chicago if you’re looking to encourage your budding artist), he’s drawing elaborate pictures of his future studio, and he’s asked that we put the Metropolitan Museum of Art on our site-seeing list so that when we go to New York City next week, he can visit the Monets.

So when he had a day off from school yesterday, I decided to take him on a scavenger hunt, looking for paintings by Monet, Picasso and Matisse in museums around the city. Since we’d be spending a fair amount of time on the street car, too, I tossed in a couple extra-museum items, like election signs, Halloween decorations and the like. But it was the paintings that really got him going.

First stop, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art:

Enter museum pulled by eager 6 year old tugging on your arm. Get out museum floor plan and hand it to him. Watch as he scans map and then announces, “Matisse. . . 2nd floor! Let’s go!” Watch docent beam.

At the Palace of the Legion of Honor:

Enter museum pulled by eager 6 year old tugging on your arm. Get out museum floor plan and hand it to him. Watch as he scans map and then announces, “Monet… Gallery 19! C’mon!” Docent beams, asks “How old is he?” and nods at the answer; “That’s how old I was,” she says.

And there at the Legion of Honor, inspired by the sight of students with their paints and brushes, copying some of the pieces on display, Ben got out his paper and pencils and got to work:

Turns out, what makes a museum docent happy makes a mama pretty happy, too.


  1. Aliki2006 says:

    How amazing–and thrilling–to watch him at work!

  2. Maria says:

    That is fantastic, Caroline! Thanks for mentioning those biographies.

  3. Leightongirl says:

    I thought about this post all day, and into the next. It seems so blessed, and effortless, this intersection with works of art, himself, and you and yours. Amazing.

  4. Julie says:

    Aw, I’m such a sucker for kids who love art. Sophie was watching a movie with me the other evening and got excited at one scene in the movie. She paused the tv, ran to her room, and came back with her Seurat biography open to his Sunday in the Park painting and held it up to the frozen image on the tv – they were eerily similar. Maybe they can start an artists collective when they grow up….

  5. I like this blog entry. My father always took his students to the DIA (Detroit Institute of Arts) on Fridays to mentor his students.

    Here is a link on his website of a video that was made about his work with his students. You can actually see him with his students in the DIA in the video

    Antonio Tapia-Perez

    btw, I found your blog via twitter

  6. stacey says:

    Oh I just want to hug him! What a wonderful story!