February 5, 2002

Broadcast Your Artist Vibe to Kids

Filed under: Art and About Kids — admin @ 2:45 pm

Every morning my 13-month-old greets me from his crib with a wide grin and an expectant look in his eye which seems to query, “What are you going to show me today, Mom?”

Strewing his toys about the living room, emptying the linen closet and strolling through a hibernating garden are only alluring for so long before he starts tugging on his diaper bag, ready to go, go, go.
I’m fortunate because I have a job where I get to go to art galleries, play rehearsals and concerts all the time. Most of the time, my toddling side-kick goes with me.

He has run through the halls of the Orinda Library Gallery just to press his nose against the lighted display cases and study Tom White’s sculptures and smile at Liz Piatt’s art quilts. The lowest shelves are just his size.

We’ve gone to a jazzy jam session with trombonist Steve Turre and the young musicians at Stanley Middle School. Last week, we sat by the tympani during the Mayor’s Concert at Stanley for a first-hand look at the busy percussion section. Without a quick e-mail from Stanley music director Bob Athayde, we would have missed Trombonanza at Papillon in December with half a dozen A-level Bay Area trombonists doing their brassy version of holiday caroling.

A visit to Susan’s Studio not only gave us a chance to practice our brush strokes with invisible paint on an empty canvas, but co-owner Susan List didn’t mind small fingers exploring the texture of the dried oil paint comprising her creations around the room.

One Monday we made friends with the residents of Lafayette Elder Care when we joined them for their sing-along with guitarist Michael Kistner. Kistner even tailored the musical gathering by singing some favorites enjoyed by the young and young-at-heart.

There are fantastic animal paintings at Pacific Wildlife Gallery in Lafayette for a youngster just learning about the natural world. And a trip to any of our Lamorinda libraries includes a stop by the walls exhibiting the work of local artists as we make our way to the children’s section.

Granted, my job affords us some opportunities not everyone has. While I watch the singing and dancing on stage at Town Hall Theatre during a rehearsal for “We’ll Take Manhattan,” my son seriously investigates why the theater seats pop up every time he stops pushing down on them. But I know not every kid has the luxury of exploring an empty theater on a Monday afternoon.

However, most of what we do, and everything I’ve mentioned above, are free activities open to anyone. Certain paintings are absolutely captivating. Music activities are always a winner. And small eyes can get pretty big when a voice projects dialogue from the stage. For me, it’s just a matter of keeping my eyes and ears open to the daily arts events within minutes from our house, and informing the powers that be that I’ll be bringing a young one. No one has asked me not to bring him yet.

In fact, last month my whole family went to The Waybacks concert at the Orinda Library Auditorium as part of the Neighborhood Energy Company’s Community Concert Series. I had heard how wonderful the community concerts were for adults and kids alike and decided it was time for me to see for myself. This is not a free event, mind you, but not a bad deal at $18 for an intimate concert with dynamite performers.

Before the concert began, my husband and son took a tour of the sound system set up on the floor in front of the stage and got a good look at the drum set and myriad string instruments waiting for the band to bring them to life. Several people stopped to chat with the little boy who was so obviously soaking in the atmosphere of his first professional concert. Before a single note was played, they were sharing the communal experience of folks brought together by music.

I hope the message my son is receiving through all these outings is that the world of the arts is a welcoming place, no matter your size, level of experience…or attention span.

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