With gallery walls and floor spaces adorned with a vast assortment of fine paintings and statues, it is hard for any patron visiting the University Art Museum to not feel a sense of romanticism in the air. On Feb. 11, this sense was further heightened when the recurring Art for Families series dedicated their event, Art from the HeART, to telling some of the great love stories behind select museum works.
Part of the established series Art for Families, which exposes children to art in an accessible and engaging manner, Art from the HeART invited families from Princeton and neighboring communities to experience the University Art Museum through storytelling and hands-on activities.
Laura Berlik, a docent at the art museum since 1999, was one of the storytellers at Saturday’s event. She told the story of Nydia the Flower Girl of Pompeii in the Gallery of American Art, which houses a statue of the story’s heroine. Other stories told at the event included those of Daphne and Apollo and Cupid and Jupiter.
Berlik noted that one of her favorite aspects of Art for Families is the original artwork component, in which participants, typically children of graduate students or those living in neighboring towns and aged two to ten years old, are given the freedom to create a piece of their own inspired by the theme of the week.
“We have opportunities for them to follow a pattern and do it ‘the right way’ more or less, inside the lines, or outside. We have something for all of them,” Berlik explained.
For Art for the HeART, the activity was, fittingly, making valentine cards.
Berlik also touched on the importance of teaching children about art as a way to evoke a new way of thinking. “I think what we mainly do is try to get [the children] to look,” she explained.
“I had a tour of kids this morning, and, among other things, we looked at this painting, and they would talk about the five senses,” Berlik added. “What do you see here? If you were right here in this scene, what could you hear? See, smell, taste, feel, touch?”
Berlik believes in encouraging young participants to think about art in this context, since “they are a bit more observant when they start off little like that.”
Mary Furey Gerard, a docent at the museum for the past four years and one of the volunteers for Arts for Families, noted that the very nature of the museum lends itself to events such as this one. “Since the museum is right here in the middle of town, it’s a wonderful resource, and it’s a small enough venue that you can take your children and see one gallery and leave, as opposed to some of the larger museums in New York or Philadelphia,” Gerard stated.
She also described the role the program plays in the lives of those involved, “It opens the museum to the families in the area and it opens the children’s eyes to art and gets them interested in how you look at things and colors and doing their own art from an early age.”