This afternoon, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Kristen Nelson, The Art History Mom. Kristen's website is a treasure trove for all moms, homeschooling or not. Please take a few minutes and get acquainted. There's nothing to buy. Everything she offers is absolutely free of charge.
Growing up in New Orleans, Kristen was exposed to all sorts of wonderful music, architecture, art, and people. Her passion for art was born in her teen years, when she attended Metairie Park Country Day, a school with an excellent art curriculum. In college she studied fine art and art history at Colorado State University. During this time she spent her first summer in Italy studying Renaissance frescoes. If she wasn’t hooked on art before, that surely did it!
In her late 20s, she took a break from her high-pressure advertising career in Atlanta to follow her dream of living in Italy. Through an amazing job at Trinity College’s Elderhostel program, she led tours of the Italian art scene throughout the country from her base in Rome.
Two years later she returned to the States and resumed her career in graphic design. She met her husband, Christian, on a blind date. Not knowing anything about her, he suggested they meet at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art. The first time they met face to face, they were standing under the gaze of a Rodin sculpture.
Christian is a golf enthusiast who works in finance, but he loves art as well. His favorite period is Soviet Constructivism. Hers is Italian Medieval. What’s yours? If there is a certain genre, work of art, or artist you’d like to see featured in her blog, please head over and let her know. She’ll do her best to oblige you.
Friends in artsy places.
To make sure Kristen gets all of her art history facts straight, she consults with her beautiful and brilliant friend, Monica Shenouda, who currently lives in Florence. Kristen and Monica worked together in Rome. Since then, Monica’s earned her doctorate in art history from the University of Virginia. When Monica’s not teaching for Pepperdine University’s Study Abroad program, you can find her giving tours of places like the Uffizzi Gallery for Context Travel. Kristen likes to think that her art blog is a way for all of us to break from the daily routine and join Monica in Italy, where artistic tradition is so deeply rooted.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau
Art is so important. More than merely looking at pretty pictures or objects, it’s about learning how to see. This means recognizing beauty not only in art, but throughout the world around us. Although some people enter this world with the eyes of an artist, the ability to see is a learned skill anyone can acquire, especially impressionable children.
Think about the many images our kids are exposed to on a daily basis. Just to name a few: loud, often violent video games; over-stimulating TV commercials; and visually cluttered billboards hovering above as they ride in the back of our SUVs. But how many of these images actually give meaning to their lives? Or elevate their hearts and minds?
A lifelong gift.
Kristen's mother-in-law, Carol, tells an interesting story. When Carol was 7 years old living in Pensacola, Florida, just after World War II, her mother spent $25 (a small fortune at the time) on an art book filled with photos of masterpieces. It was placed prominently in the living room.
Her young daughter, Carol, quickly discovered the great treasure and was soon spending hours devouring its contents. The pages were filled with a beauty and mystery that fed her soul for years—after all, she didn’t have an iPad! Carol would gaze at the people in the paintings, make up stories about them, and imagine what it would be like to be part of their worlds.
Later in life, when visiting museums, Carol would point and exclaim, “That’s Raphael!” or “Look at that gorgeous landscape by Turner!” Because Carol shared her artistic enthusiasm with her son, when he became Kristen's husband, they were able to enjoy art together. Now they're intent on passing this appreciation on to their children.
Great art is a click away.
It’s Kristen's hope that her blog will help you foster a deep affection for art in your child, too. Sadly, young people in America are under-exposed to images that enlarge their worldview in an inspiring way. And unless you live in a major metropolitan city, it’s difficult to visit museums to show your kids great paintings, sculpture, and architecture.
That’s why Kristen is bringing the masterpieces to you! She’ll cover all genres, posting different works of art along with kid-friendly talking points. Discussing art can be intimidating, so Kristen will make it easy for you. And although copyright restrictions exist for works created within the last 90 years, modern art will be included whenever possible.
As a parent, your part is to look at the images with your child and discuss what you see. (Kristen loves to hear your comments, and your children’s!) The featured pieces will be followed by a related art project, enabling your little ones to create something beautiful, while reinforcing what they’ve learned.
Along the way, your kids will expand their vocabulary and gain useful knowledge about geography and culture. I hope that together you discover not only the joy of art, but the joy of exploring it side by side.
So, are you with her?
If so, please subscribe here. It's free:-)
So, how do you get the most out of this website? Here are a few tips.
- Show your excitement. As parents, we all know that our children imitate our attitudes and actions. (Don’t you hate that sometimes?) That’s why it’s important for you to model enthusiasm. It sounds obvious, but if you are excited about viewing and discussing art, your kids will be, too.
- Read before you share. I highly recommend reading the blog post before you share it with your kids. Take into consideration the ages of your children and plan accordingly. For little ones, you may only want to show them the images and talk about the colors and shapes you see. My 5-year-old likes to look at the artwork and go straight to the Fun Facts section. Tweens and teens might need a little more substance so they can explore the links within the post.
- Timing is everything. If your kids are like most, as soon as you sit down with your laptop or tablet they are on top of you. This is the perfect time to pull up Art History Mom and explore a recent post together.
- Allow interest to build. When first introducing her site to your kids, keep it short and sweet. The more art history I show my children, the more enthusiastic they become—but it takes time. You might want to start with a specific blog post your child will find interesting. Show them the images and point out a few engaging facts. Each time you visit the blog, spend a little more time. The point is to keep it positive so your kids will want to revisit the site and explore more art.
- Tools of the trade. At the beginning of each post you’ll see a link to a page of flash cards. Print these out and cut them along the dotted lines. Then have your child write the answers to the questions on the back of each card as you review the post together. You can use them throughout the week for pop quizzes!
- Pause for questions. You can read the post to your child or let him or her lead. If you’re guiding your child through the post, don’t forget to pause after the questions, giving some time to think and answer.
- Display the art. Print out the featured artwork and post it in a prominent place in your home for a week or so. It will reinforce the lesson and you can engage your child by asking them questions about the artwork.
- Bigger is better. Although this site is smartphone-friendly, you’ll have a better experience viewing the posts on a desktop, laptop, or tablet.
- Homeschooling. If you’re a homeschool mom, I would be overjoyed if you choose to use this site as part of your curriculum. Incorporate it into your weekly routine and designate a special morning or afternoon to learning about art history.