First Tour, and an Open Letter

Today I led my first Artful Adventures tour. Having only observed one tour a few weeks ago I was a bit nervous- what if I get lost around the museum? What if they laugh at me? What if they suddenly realize there’s more of them than me and they decide to mutiny? What if I sudennly forget my own name and consequently everything else I had planned to say?

The good news, is that as new humans, preschoolers are still mastering concepts like “speech” and “walking” and “what we do and do not put in our mouths” and as such haven’t had time to learn “Cool” “Uncool” or “Unprepared Dork.” Before we got past the rules I found myself with small people hanging on my every word and limb.

There was one cloud over the day, but rather than just talk about it to you, internet, I’ll just go ahead and address the problem directly.

Dear Adults (not just those I met today, but any one else who claims the title);

Thank you for being responsible. Seriously, someone needs to think about inside voices and when to use them and I sure don’t want to- so thanks. I also appreciate your trying to help make the tour successful via controlling your kids, reminding them to be quiet, not stomp and put on the appropriate anatomy (listening ears and the like). I think you might be a bit confused, however, as to what we were trying to do today/ So if it’s okay, I’d like to clear a few things up for you about what it is we try to do at Artful Adventures.

First of all, and this is the most important thing, we want to imagine. And we want your kids to imagine with us. We want to play and be silly. Sometimes when we’re trying to do these things, kids get loud and sometimes, even rowdy. True, there are times and places in the Real World where being loud and rowdy is Not Appropriate. Learning to be Appropriate, however, is much easier than learning how to be outrageous, so in our tours we like to focus on the latter. When we see who can walk through the gallery with the big big biggest steps we can, for example, sometimes those of us not quite used to walking at all take the big big biggest stomps we can. And that’s okay. Being silly like this is not only okay, it’s vital. Did you know that “active play selectively stimulates brain derived neurotrophic factor (which stimulates nerve growth) in the amygdala (where emotions get processed) and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (where executive decisions are processed.”?* Now you do.

I understand though, how you might’ve been confused today. We were in a museum, and most people do think of museums as Serious and Important cultural centers for reflection and academia. But, since you guys tried your best to be helpful, misguided though you may have been, I’m going to tell you a secret- Are you ready? Listening ears on?Okay-

Museums are fun. Seriously. They are seriously fun places.

If you think it’s fun to stroll thoughtfully, arms behind backs, nodding and humming insightfully at all the Art- you can do that! Does the art instead make you want to jump up and down because it’s so great? Does it make you want to stop the first person you see so you can tell them how awful it is and just how ANGRY it makes you? Both are also valid responses! It’s hard to learn this when you’ve already grown up with the idea that learning = boring and serious, so we’re trying to give your kids the truth early.

True, you might not have known all this (a lot of adults don’t), so it’s okay this time.

Next time, though, you stifle a child’s creativity in front of me and you will sit on your hands out in the hallway while we build badass forts in the Wonder Room.

Yours,

Cat

*Brown, Stuart L., and Christopher C. Vaughan. Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York: Avery, 2009. Print