The fixed notion of Community Art is elusive, and yet, community art has been around for centuries. Artists are intrinsically drawn to the world they live in, and for many that means not only viewing but participating in it. As I start my personal journey with Community Art, I intend to find out what exactly it means, how exactly it can be defined, so I can help spread this creative fervor and transform the general public into the creatively passionate.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dancing in the... Museum?

Last Thursday I took a group of children to the MFA for a late night visit. By 6 o'clock, which is only the time that we get there, the children are typically already hungry and antsy after having been at school all day and then at the club for three hours. Despite this, they normally do quite well in the museum and are excited to be around the art and to be outside of their normal environment.

The whole way there the kids were singing along to the radio and to each others ipods/phones. When, for a moment, I slipped past a station of rock music from some previous decade there were giggles and cries of "What is this?" "Is this music?" and my personal favorite, "No offense to whoever wrote this song, but this is weird." To my ears, this music was perfectly normal and, to run the risk of sounding like an old cranky lady, much more appropriate for the kids than the songs they listen to at 8-10 years old which all seem to reference sex or drugs with varying degrees of subtlety.

The visit itself went well, apart from a short bickering between two girls and some discrepancies over eating in the can. The kids still hold a certain awe for the museum and the artist we were working with. The project wrapped up a little earlier than planned, so the kids and I took a stroll through the museum on the way back out.

In the Contemporary wing there was a small country band set up and we decided to stay for a song. One or two of the kids started to dance, sticking their feet out in front of them in their interpretation of country dancing. Soon enough there were twelve children bobbing up and down in the middle of the new contemporary art wing at the Museum of Fine Arts.

I walked over to the two employees running the event and asked if it was okay that the children were dancing.

"Of course!" cried one of them, holding her clipboard to her chest as she grinned at the kids. "This is what we want to have happen. We want it to be fun!"

It was fun.

The handful of people gathered to listen to the musicians glanced back to watch the group of flailing children, all maintaining a respectful distance from the art on the walls. The musicians played louder, the audience started to nod along, and the kids were all for it. When the song ended we all applauded, formed a line, and walked out.

The children giggled as we made our way to the exit, pausing so that each of them could touch the Abraham Lincoln Statue, the only piece of art in the museum where the sign says "PLEASE TOUCH." In one evening the kids and seen art, reflected on it, created from it, done something "forbidden" (touching an art piece), and had fun.

As I drove the children back across the Tobin Bridge, listening to them sing to the radio once again, I thought about how the kids would have reacted if they had heard the same music that they were dancing to on the radio. I can only imagine the squeals and giggles of "what is this?" But when they were faced with the real live musicians, they couldn't help but dance.

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