Crafting Conversations- Looking At Art Together

Looking carefully at art and sharing our thoughts out loud is a great family activity for quiet time. Check out our Found Again exhibition, a collection of quilts and ceramics, or our permanent collection. Remember, when looking at art and sharing ideas there are no right or wrong answers. Every answer is valid and interesting! The point is to share our thoughts out loud- making thinking visible. Here are some strategies you can take to get the conversation started.

First: Take a Long, Slow Look

The first thing to do is select an interesting work of art and take a full minute to look at it carefully. Let’s start with Divergence  by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry.

Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry

One person in your group can help guide everyone’s eyes by speaking very slowly with instructions, like this: 

“Let’s look carefully at this quilt. Move your eyes all over the quilt, bit by bit.  Look at the top left side….then slowly move your eyes to the right side. Now look at the middle left, and move your eyes over to the right. Look carefully all along the bottom section. Look at the top left corner, and move your eyes diagonally to the bottom right corner. Now look at the top right corner, and move your eyes diagonally to the bottom left. Let’s look for a whole minute.” 

It may help to gesture at the screen while you direct everyone’s eyes. Though this exercise may seem awkward at first, it takes time to look carefully and take in all the details. 

An Easy Question Routine: See, Think, Wonder

Now to start the conversation- an easy set of questions to remember is “See, Think, Wonder.” First, ask “what do you see here?” Focus on simple things, based only on what you see- colors, shapes, lines, textures. Looking at Divergence, I’d say I see a lot of different green colors grouped together, with a blue-green patch in the middle left. I see two grey lines starting at the bottom, then twisting away from each other in the middle. I see two figures- one towards the bottom, and one towards the top left.

The next question in this routine is “what do you think is happening?” This is when we interpret what we see. If the work seems to tell a story, we can share what we think the story is. In this quilt, my interpretation might be, “I see a woman at the beginning of two paths. One path veers off to the right, and goes off the edge of the quilt. The other path veers towards a man waving at us. I think the woman is deciding what path to take.” 

Then, ask “what do you wonder about this piece?” Or “does this work of art leave you with any questions?” When a person shares their wonders, another person can try to answer with their own ideas, or you can leave it as an unanswered question. Sometimes these wonders can be answered with a Google search, but sometimes not. Art doesn’t always leave us with all answers, and that’s OK!

An Easier Question Routine: What Makes You Say That?

Another easy conversation starter is simply “what do you see here?” When someone gives an interpretation of what they think they see, a good question for elaboration is “What do you see that makes you say that?” These two easy questions will help get the conversation started.

These activities are great for the whole family. Try a new work of art every day, or even photographs from the newspaper or historical images from the Ohio History Connection. Once you try this at home, we’d love to hear from you! Message us on Facebook.