Thursday, May 3, 2012

Book #124: Seen Art? by Jon Sciescka & Lane Smith

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Two friends promise to meet each other on the corner of Fifth and Fifty-Third in New York City. Our young protagonist arrives, but where’s his friend, Art? He asks a lady on the street, “Have you seen Art?” “MoMA?” asks the lady and she directs him to the Museum of Modern Art. As he continues his search for his friend, museum-goers are more than happy to show him their idea of art. From Van Gogh to Warhol, Picasso to Modigliani, the boy is experiences to a diverse body of modern art. But after searching the entire building, his friend is nowhere to be found, so he walks back to the street corner. Art is there and together they walk back to MoMA to see the art again.

This book is great for elementary school kids who are making their first trip to an art museum. They’ll enjoy the repeated pun on the word, “art.” The illustrations are a combination of photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of art from the NYC MoMA and drawn characters with squiggles of hair and collage outfits. The text uses dialogue to present ideas about art, helping readers notice details about the paintings. Also notable is the design of the book, rectangular and long, mimicking the long galleries of a museum.

The major theme in the book is that there’s not just one kind of art. There are many different approaches to art and different people can respond differently to the same work of art. There's an appendix at the end of the book that includes a thumbnail of each piece of art, information on the artist, the media, and the date of creation.

Read this story before you go to the art museum and take a few minutes to explore the museum's website. Print out a copy of the map and figure out where each exhibition will be. Many museum websites include a teacher’s guide for particular exhibits, as well as photographs of a few pieces in each exhibit. This not only gets kids excited about going to the museum, it lets them know what to expect and that can make it less scary.

Check out these two fun and educational museum websites for more ideas. The NYC MoMa Family Visit page is chock full of kid-friendly information, games, and ideas, some of which can be modified for use with artwork at another museum. Use the Artscope on the San Francisco MOMA website for an interactive online art experience.


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