By Patricia Ryan Lampl

Sophie Gets her Art Start


I have found a cure for the “What shall we do today?" blues — a morning at the Metropolitan Museum, complete with a Start With Art class. My 5-year-old daughter, Sophie, has never needed coaxing to visit a museum. Matter of fact, last year when I told her we were going to services at temple, her response was, "The Temple of Dendur?" A la Sesame Street, she refers to the Greek and Roman statuary as 'The Brokens'; when she was 3, she’d say, ”Let's go see ‘The Brokens’.” She finds these sculptures hysterically funny, but also feels sad that “those people don't have noses.” So, one recent day, we headed off to the Met. We visited ‘The Brokens' first. They are Sophie’s welcoming committee and comfort zone. We took a walk through the Chocolate, Coffee, Tea exhibit, oohing and aahing at the beautiful porcelain tea and coffee sets. We picked our favorite, the pink French (her favorite color). Keeping our priorities straight… next stop, lunch in the new cafeteria. Sophie’s lunch of choice was chicken fingers in the New York City taxicab tray. “Let’s have a conversation!” she said, and we did. There was actually enough seating and space that we could hear each other. I got all the preschool gossip I can barely drag out of her at home. We did a little people-watching and a time check. There was a Start With Art class at 2:30pm at the Uris Education Center. Designed for preschoolers, it’s an introduction to art and it’s free. At least 30 children were there. They sat in a circle and the 'guides' — enthusiastic young women — introduced themselves. The kids did the same, and then, because the group was large, we broke up into two groups. One visited the African Gallery and the other the Impressionists. We set off to Van Gogh and Gauguin. Our guide, Jennifer, was terrific. She gathered the children in a semi-circle and discussed a Van Gogh through storytelling and color and pattern recognition. She encouraged the children to share their observations, then she distributed blank pieces of paper and scattered colored pencils on the floor. The children sketched their interpretation of the painting. The tone was so relaxed and friendly that there weren’t even sharing issues. We moved across the gallery to a Gauguin painting and repeated the process. It was fun for the grownups, too. We parents and grandparents wound up having our own conversations about the paintings. When the class broke up, Jennifer stayed and answered questions and listened to stories about one boy’s pet. To bookend our day, we swung by ‘The Brokens’ to say goodbye. “Mom, do you think the guys who broke them got a big timeout?” Sophie asked. Hmm, I’ll have to think about that. Running up her preschool steps the next morning, she announced to her teacher: “I got a Start with Art!” It doesn’t get better than that.