Thursday, 21 February 2008

Museum as Creche

Perusing this blog from the Guardian online caught my eye as I focused in on the word ‘creche’ which I initially read as crepe; thereby raising visions of crinkled cloth or fancy desserts, and subsequently the expectation of a performance art article. Thumbing through my Webster’s, I discovered the British definition – a day nursery – or more simply a day care centre.
So on first read, I almost agreed with the writer’s viewpoint, but on further consideration I decided mandating five hours of cultural activities each week has merit. Reminded me of my last visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery during the final days of the Georgia O’Keefe exhibition when there were scattered groups of eight year olds (just a guess , I could easily be out a couple of years on either side) on both the main floor and top floors. Yes, there were some ribbons, laughter and general running about as they went back and forth to their colouring pencils and paper strewn on the floor. But the scene was in sharp contrast to the ‘Monet to Dalí’ exhibition a couple of months previous. Even with a staggered admission schedule, the procedure compared to leading cattle from pen to pen onward to the slaughter house: necks craned, low murmuring and a studied trek to the final gateway. At least for the gallery patrons, it was not the end of the road. They are encouraged to purchase mementos from the final convenient store before being ushered out onto the rain drenched streets.
Over the last ten to fifteen years art galleries have relied heavily on the superstar shows; nothing like name dropping Picasso, Monet, da Vinci to pull in the paying crowds and top up the coffers. While from a money making point of view, this is good business, unfortunately for most of the visiting hordes there is scant opportunity to truly understand or appreciate any of the art presented. Not that it matters because for most people, being there becomes just another notch in one’s journey through life. This year see the Mona Lisa: next year the Super Bowl. Was it the lack of exposure to culture preventing them from yielding to the art and seeking its raison d'être?
An advantage of youth is the seeming ability to learn and acquire by apparent osmosis – simple exposure to stimuli somehow locks into memory – so continued introduction to culture may provide the foundation for future understanding. Thus, thirty years down the road we can anticipate a greater number of forty year old men, and women, who appreciate, comprehend and support art in all its many forms. The experience, of either suddenly or slowly over time, deciphering what an artist was attempting to put forth or elucidate, can offer us moments of true wonder and perception.
As for the playgrounds, I vaguely recall reading an article in the Times or another British paper commenting on playgrounds designed for and restricted to seniors. Too bad for all the forty year olds; they will have to wait another twenty or twenty five years to go out and play!

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