Back in High School, I took as many Art classes as I could. It was in a small school so I really had the same Art class each semester for four years. I took it upon myself to try a variety of things over the years, but one of my favorite parts of class was the yearly trip to the Sheldon Art Museum in Lincoln, NE.
At first, I was excited about this trip because it meant a day off from school, but after the first time, I really started to appreciate the artwork. In what seemed like a small gallery, I was able to stand in front of works done by Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and many other famous names. I, of course, gravitated to the big name artists because up to that point, that I what I assumed was important and the reason why we were there. But I kept getting intrigued by other pieces from lesser known artists that ended up shaping my college art focus.
I am not a scientist (remember, this is an Art blog) and I am not going to claim to know specifics about studies done of “Why you should go to a museum”, this is a post mostly on why I think you should go. From my perspective as an Artist, Teacher, Parent, and just a (seemingly) normal human. Also, I am not affiliated with any of the Art Galleries or Museums I am mentioning (just in case you think I am just trying to drum up traffic for them). I am just a person who truly enjoys seeing the creativity and craftsmanship of other people. My wife describes it as “a kid in a candy store” when we go to galleries because of how I react to certain artworks or artists.
When you walk in to an Art Gallery or Museum for the first time, you will undoubtedly be overwhelmed with the experience. There are so many rooms and hallways filled with all sorts of artwork that you may or may not understand. Instead of trying to take in all of this at once, instead, find one piece that really catches your eye and take a closer look. How did they create the piece? What materials did they use? Read the small description next to the piece to learn more about it. This tiny bit of research can help you appreciate the piece more as well as give you inspiration for your own work.
Creativity is like a muscle, it needs to be flexed in order to get stronger. Its not just being creative or not being creative. You get better at it the more you practice. Looking at Art in a gallery is one way to flex your creative muscle. Another way is to actually start trying to create something (which some galleries allow you to sit and sketch the artwork during certain times, be sure to ask before just starting). When I walk around a gallery and take in the artwork, I get inspired to try new techniques or use different subjects in my own work. I have also taken a small notebook around with me to make notes and small sketches to help me remember the inspiration that I did have. (I’m pretty good at forgetting things like that).
CULTURAL AWARENESS AND UNDERSTANDING
I (mostly) grew up in a small town in Iowa that wasn’t very diverse. It was a small farming community that was just far enough away from any big cities that I wasn’t exposed to a lot of diverse cultures. The town was made up of mainly Caucasian and Hispanic cultures, which is still more diversity than some other small towns around the country, but it still left some to be desired. When my small school would take a trip to the Sheldon Art Museum in Lincoln, NE, I was able to see Artwork from many more cultures that gave me at least some understanding of their lives. This exposure helped me expand my knowledge of how Art is used to tell stories from many perspectives.
Diversity in the United States is an asset that I don’t believe is being fully utilized. Too many times, people are afraid of anyone who is different from them instead of embracing the differences and learning from them. When you look at Artwork from other cultures, you are looking through a window in to what is important to the person who created it. You may not like the piece, you may not even like the message, but it is important to understand why the piece was created from the perspective of the artist and/or the artist’s culture.
Many times, artwork is produced as a response to the changing world around you. Some Artists choose to get political with their work or use their work to point out important things in society. But if you start to look at Artwork during different time periods, you get a glimpse of what was happening at the time. When we study ancient cultures, a lot of information is taken from the Artwork that is found. Whether it be pieces of pottery or a large mosaic, researchers can tell a lot about a culture just by what they find and where it was when they find it.
Pablo Picasso painted Guernica as a response to the Spanish Civil War, Andy Warhol used Pop Art as a commentary on our consumer culture, even the Renaissance Period used Art as a way to tell a story either about religion at the time or events that were taking place. In any case, Art can be a good way to understand a Time Period, Culture, or just the crazy thoughts and ideas of an Artist living in the moment.
SEEING PRETTY THINGS MAKES YOU HAPPY
Ok, so I don’t have any scientific facts to back this one up, but people just get happier when they see pleasing things. (Think of how happy a dog gets when they see a treat) You may not jump for joy when you walk through a museum and see all of the artwork, but you will have an enjoyable time. Even if you don’t fully understand some of the work, the colors, the images, and just the overall setting should help relax you and make you feel better.
In my (biased) opinion, I think everyone should visit an Art Gallery or Museum as often as possible. A lot of the bigger ones are now free (they do ask for donations to cover costs, but how much you give it up to you), and you can see some truly historical works. Even the small museum in Lincoln, NE has some pieces that travel the world to be on display.
Whatever reason you choose to go to an Art Gallery or Museum is a good one. These spaces have been provided to show off the talents of mankind and also serve as a way of embracing not only our own culture, but to respect and learn from other people’s culture. You may find yourself having more similarities with another culture than you thought you would ever have.
Thanks for reading.
*Please note: The photos appearing in this post do not belong to me, nor do I claim that they do. I wanted to show a variety of Museum and Gallery types and added in photos that I came across while doing the research.