We were about to go see gallery teacher Audrey Chan’s favorite artwork in the whole museum.
“What are the some of the rules we need to follow in the galleries?” she asked the 15 parents and children who crowded around her at 2:00 p.m. for our 30-minute Family Art Stops program. “No cell phones?” guessed a mom. The parents laughed. “No touching the art,” a girl offered. Correct! (“The kids are great about following that rule,” Audrey confided to me later.)
And we were off, to one of the decorative arts galleries in the South Pavilion. “Look up!” said Audrey, pointing to an eye-popping chandelier above our heads. “This is a chandelier. Does anyone know what a chandelier is?”
The littlest participant, five-year-old Sarah, was confident. “It’s what princesses have.” “Princesses do have chandeliers, you’re right!” Audrey agreed. There were no wrong answers here. She pointed out the candles, and the kids realized that we were looking at the fanciest ceiling light they’d ever seen.
Audrey led us on a visual tour of the chandelier, encouraging us to spot the many ways that artist Gérard-Jean Galle had incorporated the elements of nature—fire, air, water, and earth—into the design. There were painted gold stars, flickering candlelight, glinting crystals, a globe to represent earth and ocean, even a crystal bowl made to hold goldfish.
“The artist used his imagination to create this object,” said Audrey. “Now, you get to use your imagination and create the most fantastical chandelier you can think of!” Using colored pencils and drawing sheets featuring an audience in fancy dress and a sturdy hook to hold our inventions, families began to collaborate on some far-out designs. The boy sitting next to me created a solar-system chandelier with a glowing yellow sun. “It’s a Star Wars chandelier!” exclaimed his dad. “Look, there’s Tatooine!”
Drawings complete, Audrey asked participants to share. A mom and daughter showed their symphony in pinks, explaining how they’d embellished it with butterflies and crystals. Another girl presented her heart-shaped design, decorated with stripes and dangling charms. Every drawing was different and amazingly creative, though clearly inspired by the chandelier hanging overhead. (See a selection below!)
Time was up, but Audrey had one last activity up her sleeve: a DIY scavenger hunt for four more glittering chandeliers in the South Pavilion. Families took the handouts and scurried off for the chase.
Later that afternoon in the Museum Courtyard, I walked by a family who’d attended Audrey’s Art Stop and heard one of the sisters happily declaring, “Fire, air, water, earth! Fire, air, water, earth!”
Art Stops are offered weekdays at 2:00 and 2:30 p.m. throughout the summer, and on weekends the rest of the year. Just sign up 30 minutes before the program; there are multiple sessions, and almost always room. Each teacher chooses a different object with a different lesson, so you can see and do something new each time. And all in 30 minutes!
A few of the wonderful drawings—thanks to the families for sharing their creations!