Art Field Trips

Posted on

Now that the standardized test is behind us, we can have some fun with subjects like foreign languages and art, which I tend to de-emphasize in the months leading up to the test. We visited two art museums recently, to get our art juices flowing: Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg and the Knoxville Museum of Art.

Girl looking at digital art

My daughter looking at digital art, in Knoxville, at the Museum of Art

At Arrowmont, we caught the tail end of the juried exhibition from Sevier County residents. We live in a community full of talented artists. It was inspiring to see all the different pieces and media.  Continue reading »

Arrowmont displays their permanent collection and then temporary exhibitions. The museum is free and they also have a library filled with art books and magazines. On Wednesdays, volunteers come to cull through their collection and discard what is not needed anymore in the school. They fill up a bookshelf with giveaways or heavily discounted art books.

Boy and girl at Arrowmont

My children at Arrowmont

I picked up several free beautiful art books and a $1 large coffee table book on London. How would you like to travel to London for $1 and not worry about terrorism, flight inconveniences and jet lag? With such a book, one can.

The children enjoyed the art and got a lesson in art marketing. They were shocked at the prices of some of the pieces. The most expensive one was $16,000 and most of them were in the $300 range.

In Knoxville, the Museum of Art is also free. They have a Children’s Corner filled with art books for children, a Brite Lite wall, two art easels for drawing, and many craft opportunities. While their gift shop offers pricey items, I have also found some of their offerings to be the same price as Amazon or Walmart. If you are watching your budget, the gift shop is not a bad option for some of the art products they carry.

Girl at KMA Lite Brite Wall

My daughter at the Lite Brite Wall

Play sticks are available in the Children’s Corner

The permanent collection upstairs houses, among other things, Catherine Wiley’s beautiful Impressionist paintings – my favorite part of going to KMA. I discovered Catherine Wiley’s paintings of motherhood and women six years ago, when my children were in diapers. Wiley’s depiction of motherhood helped me transcend Pampers and Huggies.

One of the temporary exhibits is an interactive, digital art display on loan from the Thoma Foundation and the other one is a beautiful collection of abstract art by Jered Sprecher, a UT art professor. His “Respiro” and “Calling” spoke to me in a personal way. The first one reminded me of Ramazzotti’s “Respiro nel blu” and the latter reminded me of homeschooling, because I feel called to do it.

"Respiro" by Jered Sprecher

“Respiro” by Jered Sprecher, at KMA

"Calling" by Jered Sprecher, at KMA

“Calling” by Jered Sprecher, at KMA

Art museums, for me, represent these spaces where I get in touch with parts of myself I do not usually see or feel. I talk about “art therapy” and that is because I feel more complete or aware or healed when I come away from these places. On a more specific note, I think that we are still healing from the shock we suffered in November with the wildfires, so yes, we need some art therapy.

The children love everything about the visits: the art books, the art corner with its manipulatives, and the exhibits. At KMA, the Thorne Rooms offer a collection of miniatures that delight them. I enjoy looking at them as well and they came in handy, after all the history lessons we had recently. These dioramas show actual living rooms from medieval Spain or Victorian England or the American Frontier.

DIY Fall Wreath

Posted on

I blame it on the Art Museum. I spent thirty hurried minutes in there the other week. Taking frantic pictures and answering my children’s questions, I was also trying to absorb the sights for my own soul.

“Where is ‘my’ painting?” I murmured. I was looking for a very specific painting by Catherine Wiley – one that I remembered from my visit two years ago. They had another Wiley, just as breathtaking, also of a mother with a child outside, but not “my” painting.  Continue reading »

My son got really, really close to the paintings, without touching them, but giving me a reason to exercise my firm-but-gentle tone in a whispered voice. Ah, the joy! My daughter wanted in my arms – because she is four and it was a completely new building for her. Sure, she had been there before, but she did not remember.

To an outsider, a waste of time. All this effort of driving for one hour, parking, walking, pointing, introducing, explaining, rushing out of the museum to get to our violin lesson on time. All this. For what?

Even I wondered if my kids got anything out of the visit. If I got anything (besides stress) by walking through those doors.

And yet, those thirty minutes refreshed and inspired me. Next thing I knew, I was pouring over Pinterest boards, basking in baskets newly acquired for back-to-school organization in style, and making a fall wreath. Me? An DIY-er?

DIY Fall Wreath

My first attempt at a DIY fall wreath.

A recent comment by a second cousin made me chuckle. We were catching up on Facebook after many years with no direct contact. She was shocked that I chose to homeschool. “I always thought of you as CEO-material,” she said. “But,” she added, “children are more important than a career. That’s where the heart is. I get it. I am so interested in what my son is doing and learning in school. I understand your choice.”

I suppose my transformation is complete – proof positive that children form and shape their mother just as much as she hopes to form and shape them.

So, yes, I blame it on the Museum of Art, this sudden interest in baskets and burlap. Art is a dangerous thing. So is motherhood. Both transform and change you for life. They liberate whatever parts of you may be stuck somewhere without direction.

Back to “my” painting. The lady in the gift shop could not help me. Thank God for the Internet. After some detective work, I found out that “my” painting, the one that gave me hope and beauty about maternity, while my children were both under five, was called “In the Sunlight.” I still have to find out who owns it and how the Knoxville Museum of Art managed to have it on display two years ago. Obviously, it does not belong to them.

In the Sunlight by Catherine Wiley

In the Sunlight by Catherine Wiley


The one Catherine Wiley painting they have on display now cost them $107,000 at an auction seven months ago. It was so dirty when they acquired it, they did not even know there was a hat in the grass. A professional conservator spent months cleaning the painting. Aren’t you glad generous donors made it possible for us to behold such beauty?

Seated Mother and Child In A Meadow by Catherine Wiley

Seated Mother and Child In A Meadow by Catherine Wiley

I promised myself to go back there on a regular basis, now that our violin lessons happen about five minutes away from the Museum. Please hold me accountable.