Photo by Amy Gizienski / Flickr
Kids should be exposed to arts and culture as much as possible. Even if I’ve consciously chosen to not have children, I’ll be the first one to retweet (or even write about) when schools decide to cut arts programming. It’s important for developing minds to learn the value and importance of creative expression.
That being said, I have noticed a particularly annoying trend lately with newish parents taking their kids out to gallery shows that, in my estimation, are not the best places to bring them. Actually, let me rephrase: These shows would be perfectly suitable for them. Rather, it’s that these children don’t seem to have any idea of what they’re supposed to do or how they’re supposed to act once they’re in a gallery setting.
There’s been plenty of ink devoted to the standards in which we’re supposed to behave at a gallery. Yes, gallery openings, with their requisite schmoozing and chatting, tend to be a bit more casual and loose, but that doesn’t mean that patrons should just let their kids run wild. Just as with going to the movies or attending a concert, there is a code of decency that we’re all expected to adhere to when it comes to art galleries. And just like those other activities, the art gallery system seems to be breaking down.
Look, I like kids. I really do. But Bread & Salt looked like Lord of the Flies this past Saturday. I saw kids touching and mishandling art that wasn’t meant to be touched. I saw them playing with the mineral ceramics that made up Juan Villa Vicencio’s Natural Systems exhibition inside the Athenaeum Art Center. I saw them rubbing their dirty, grubby hands all over the paintings of Tijuana street artist PANCA. And I saw them using the works of Lael Corbin—a largescale plane and a parachute piece—like they were a jungle gym. And it’s not just Bread & Salt. I’ve seen this type of behavior play out at exhibitions at the Athenaeum in La Jolla and MCASD.
It’s not easy to diagnose why my generation’s kids seem to be so unruly. I know my people tend to be on the liberal side and much less likely to be authoritative disciplinarians when it comes to their kids, but there has to be some set of rules a family agrees to before they go to a museum or gallery. Without these rules, parents are just contributing to the degradation of a system of respect that should be afforded to every artist. What’s more, their children won’t grow up to respect or appreciate art. It’ll simply be something colorful they can play around with.