by Carrie Kirk
Raising children, that's a challenge. But to raise children to know and appreciate the arts, well, that's another challenge altogether. As a mother of two young boys, George (7) and William (11), I have taken on this undertaking with both excitement and a bit of trepidation. How do I expose my children to various and diverse areas of art without cramming it down their throats and making them run the other direction?
Recently, a friend and I took the boys to see Dance Kaleidoscope's Magical Mystery Tour. To entice them, we carbo-loaded at the downtown location of Buca Di Beppo and promised a walk to the circle to visit Rocket Fizz, an oasis of candy-crack to children of all ages. Please understand: we were sitting in the beautiful and formal IRT for a dance performance with two boys who aren't yet intrigued by a pretty woman in a leotard. We were definitely aiming high and taking our chances. But guess what? It was fantastic. Artistic Director David Hochoy created such an amazingly cool dance performance to the amazingly cool Beatles' psychedelic but easy-on-the-ears music that my boys watched and listened. They leaned forward to watch and listen. As a parent, I couldn't have been prouder--or more relieved. With act one featuring the Beatles' more footloose and carefree music from the 1960s and act two magnifying and rejoicing in the pure decadence of out-of-body experiences and indulgence, my kids got a real taste of the album and the time in history the show so perfectly illustrated.
The boys even got a history lesson while at the performance. As Managing Director Jan Virgin thanked DK's sponsors and highlighted the snacks for sale during intermission, she mentioned the delicious brownies with a nod towards certain brownies made famous during the flower power decade. That comment brought forth much laughter from the audience, and while it sailed over the head of George, my pre-teen pounced on it. I found myself discussing marijuana and the ways it can be ingested. I didn't flinch at the topic. Instead, it seemed an interesting way to introduce something historical yet timely with my eldest who is becoming acutely aware of such things. Thanks, Jan!
So you win some, like our DK experience, and sometimes you lose some. I lost in a big way when I took the boys to the Spirit and Place performance of Pierre Bastien at the Central Library. Bastien was fascinating, having created orchestral contraptions that he manipulated while a film reel projected the inner workings of the machines behind him. Plus he was so French: dressed all in black and appearing as if he had an espresso morning and noon and would move into a glass of red wine come evening. The work and artistry was evident in his stage performance, but it was too obscure and finely subtle for the kids. I think the three of us were under the impression that the instruments would be tall and wide and loud and something the audience could peer into and around. While Bastien did have the videos, it wasn't enough to hold the boys' attention. Earlier that day, Bastien presided over a hands-on workshop where participants created their own mechanical instruments. Perhaps if my kids had participated in that, they would have understood and appreciated all the fine details of the afternoon performance.
My solace though was knowing that if we hadn't ventured out to the show, I would have always wondered if we had missed that one experience that could have triggered or awakened something in my children. And who knows? Maybe despite their pleas to leave the show and find their way to the Central Library's computers, something magical did begin its bloom in them. After all, that's what I'm hoping for: that our life grows to accommodate frequent and various adventures in the arts, and maybe--just maybe--something a little out of the ordinary nourishes my two boys' artistic souls.