I didn’t grow up frequenting art museums. For one, there weren’t that many in our local area (various African cities). For another, if they weren’t free, I’m sure my parents weren’t going to fork over the cash for five kids to run down the halls, screaming to see how loud it would echo. Last month during a short visit to the San Diego Museum of Art, a docent asked my two-year-old daughter to stop jumping. I’m sure it was her job to tell me. Perhaps the vibrations on the marble floor were disturbing the weave of the ancient tapestries. I am partially to blame. I had not properly prepared her for that art museum visit.
Last week we arrived well prepared at the Huntington Art Gallery near Los Angeles. For months we’ve been reading a small children’s board book that features the art of Mary Cassatt. One of my favorite works is “Breakfast in Bed.” A mother reclines on the bed under white sheets with her curly-haired daughter nestled beside her. A white mug of what I imagine is coffee waits on a table beside the bed. A perfect picture of what I imagine every morning should be like (but never has been). My daughter recognizes the mug instantly as a coffee cup similar to her own. For days, I talked up our visit to the museum and told her we would see that special painting. When we entered the hall and beheld its glory, I think she truly appreciated it for at least ten seconds. That’s a reasonable amount of time for a two-year-old’s undivided attention. For the remainder of the gallery visit, I tried to keep her from jumping up and down and causing loud echoes. I did my utmost to allay the worst fears of the ‘art monitors.’ At least I did not receive any disapproving looks. Well, they may have sent looks my way, but I didn’t make eye contact.