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Art for Kids’ Sakes

One of our favorite family activities happens for three weekends once a year — Open Studios. We are really lucky to live in a place that has such a great variety of working artists. From the little pictures in the catalog (which you can buy at pretty much any bookstore in town, as well as art supply stores), it’s hard to tell what your kids might like. So we do a combination of revisiting our favorites and making nearly random stabs in the dark.
As much as I wanted his first word to be “kitty,” I believe our son’s first word was “this.” He pronounced it very cutely as “dis” and it referred to pretty much anything he thought was interesting. When he was still riding face out in a Baby Bjorn, we took him to his first Open Studios. He very quickly made his opinions clear: some artists would get a few “dis”s — others, silence. Upon entering a room at one of our favorite stops, the funky and populous 17th Avenue Studios, he started kicking his feet and pointing in amazement. “Dis!” he told me. “Dis!” He just adored the paintings on the wall, which I admit, did nothing for me.
So clearly we can’t predict our children’s taste, but we try to stretch them past wanting to go to yet another artist who does cute pictures of dogs. This is a pretty easy thing to do. Moto Ohtake ( does fabulous metal sculptures that rotate and glimmer in the sun. Our celebrated National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting ( often opens up his studio (not this year, though). His photographs are awesome and the studio is fun to visit.
One of our favorites is Andrea Rich ( who does amazing woodcuts of animals from around the world. Ben Llano Hecht, who runs Seven Directions ( art classes for kids, does huge, wonderful encaustic paintings. (Encaustic is using wax to imbed artifacts onto a surface.) He not only does fascinating art, but your kids will be mesmerized by his pets, including a tarantula, a scorpion, and a parrot my kids were convinced was saying “banana.”
My old friend Daniella Woolf ( also does encaustic in a completely different manner and environment. My kids love going there every year to see Daniella at work in her studio, which is full of her collections of artifacts that she embeds onto her canvases. Photographer Tom Cannon takes beautiful photographs, but the draw for the kids is Tom’s kind nature (he’s a teacher) and his collections of natural artifacts that he gathers from our woods and beaches. Another artist we love to see at work (she’s unfortunately not open this year) is Petcharee Tamawong, who practices the traditional Thai art of carving fruits and vegetables.
It’s good to pepper your studio visits with ones where you know the kids will be able to interact with the art. Aaron VandeKerckhove’s work, in miniature, hangs over our daughter’s bed. We first started visiting his studio when he was doing mobiles. He’s grown since then… Now his pieces are often big enough to climb in. And unlike at a museum, he wants visitors to interact with his art, especially the wonderful tower that kids can climb up inside. I hope for his sake that he sells it at some point, but until then, we love to visit it yearly! (See
I have found that a number of printmakers will let visitors to their studios create a work of art, either by using a plate they’ve already made, or by letting them create their own. We have prints made by both of our kids in Eva Bernstein’s studio, part of the huge collective of artists on 17th Avenue. Eva was so kind to our kids, and took lots of time even when there were adults, possible buyers, in the room. (See
I just love seeing my kids get so excited about art. We get to explore cool places in our county that we didn’t know existed. And if the kids start complaining… there’s always the treats that the artists kindly put out for their wayward visitors.

Posted in Parenting.

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