Today my son, Alex, graduates from high school. Part of me is sad knowing my little boy is all grown up, but a greater part of me is proud of the young man he has become and the future that is his, to be discovered. Graduation is a time when parents look back and wonder if they provided for and nurtured their child to the best of their abilities. Did we guide him to a positive path to make the most of his future?
As I look back over the years, I see how intertwined my son’s life has been with my career as a museum educator. Together, we made our first visit to the Woodson Art Museum for a Toddler Tuesday program when Alex was four years old. Not long after that visit, I became a full-time museum educator who plans Toddler Tuesdays and many other programs. During the next fourteen years, Alex transitioned through Woodson Art Museum programs designed for each age and stage. A frequent, nice bonus was knowing the little guy I kissed goodbye in the morning would be one of my students that evening. I could always hear my son arriving at the Museum, his voice filled with excitement; he approached every class with contagious enthusiasm. Often he brought a friend to Museum programs and events and I would overhear unfiltered conversations about art, from a child’s perspective. Involving my children in Museum programs and events was a great way to balance family and work. When they know you love what you do, they love that you’re doing it, don’t mind when you’re gone, and want to be part of it, too.
The Woodson Art Museum exposed my son to a diverse range of cultures, history, and environments from around the world. He also learned and tried many art forms: glass blowing, Raku, metal forging, pyrography, and others that are not taught in his school. Unable to enroll in a high school art class (he registered, but classes were cancelled), the Woodson Art Museum became his place of study for the visual arts.
Eventually, Alex transitioned from attending Museum classes to asking if he could help. He started as a Toddler Tuesday volunteer, then became a summer art camp assistant, a summer art camp counselor, and helped at various Museum outreach programs throughout the community. One summer we logged his time and discovered he had volunteered over 120 hours. Sometimes Alex even served as my evening assistant at home, trying out art mediums and techniques. One Friday night, we stayed up past midnight determining the best brand of oven-baked clay and armature system for sculptures. We had great discussions and lots of laughter, creating many memorable moments.
Alex’s most recent Museum adventures have been as a member of the Teen Art Council. As a TAC member, he had the opportunity to meet and interact with professional artists, learn new art mediums and methods, enter a teen art exhibition, participate as a character actor for museum visitors, meet students from other high schools, and captain the TAC crew for the United Way’s Big Green Derby event. Of course, he graduates from TAC this year, too. This must be on my mind; I found myself wondering last week as I led an Art Babies program if participants would be future TAC members. It’s possible; several current TAC members were Toddler Tuesday participants!
I look forward to seeing how Alex’s involvement at the Woodson Art Museum affects his future endeavors. I believe it has helped develop and enhance his social learning, problem-solving skills, self-discipline, tolerance, sensitivity, vocabulary, critical thinking, and creativity. This is certainly not the end of his Museum visits. Many adult programs offered here will pique his interest. Once you get a taste of the culture, history, and artistic expression offered at the Woodson Art Museum, the appetite grows!. Plus he has a museum/arts advocate as a mother.
I can’t foresee his future, but I believe he will be a lifelong museum visitor and successful on whatever path he chooses to follow.