Exploring Art with Teens

When my 14-year-old son saw the above painting, he announced to all those within earshot, “That is the hippiest-looking Jesus I’ve ever seen in a painting.”

Based on his cultured observation, you should listen to everything I say about exploring art with your teens because I clearly know a thing or two about growing sophisticated art connoisseurs. Sharpen your No.2 pencils and get ready to take notes!

1. You don’t have to know anything about art.

You really don’t. I grew up in a tiny Deep South town with zero culture. I slept through most of my college art appreciation classes. Hey, I was working full-time and going to night school. I was tiiiiired. When the teacher turned off the lights for the unimaginative slide show, was I expected to stay awake?

2. Grab some library books and throw food at your kids.

Art & Tarts Tuesdays, guys. Dip those toes in the water.

3. Street art counts as art exploration.

I love finding street art. I’m not sure if my teens love it as much as I do, but they love the frappucinos I buy them as we mosey around downtown. Actually, my teens do like our street art excursions. Street art is generally fun and quirky. What’s not to like about a cat holding a hat and a crown? I have no idea what it means but it makes me smile.

Sometimes you’ll even come across “real” art while you mosey around the streets.


4. Check our your city’s community center

Depending on the size of your city, your community center may host works from local artists. Just by having a few Art & Tart days, my boys recognized the influence from The Scream in one of the paintings there. See? Learning happened without boring curriculum. Or slide shows.

(I would show a picture of the Scream-inspired art we found, but my oldest teen said ex-nay on his photo being on my blog.)

5. Go to museums

You don’t need prepared lesson plans or to know anything about the current art at the museum. They have info plaques for that kind of thing. So just go.

Sometimes I’ll find out about an exhibit and will have time (and energy) to do some pre-planning before we go. Perhaps we’ll do a featured artist Art & Tarts day where I pull books on that artist or art period beforehand. We had a special family art & tart dessert night before we went to see Botticelli paintings at the Muscarelle Museum of Art. That was a big art trip for us. A three-hour drive to Virginia and totally worth it.

In a year in a half since we started exploring art, I’ve done the pre-planned thing twice. So don’t think you have to put in a lot of extra work.

6. Use short videos to learn.

When we dove into the early Renaissance period, we kept noticing man-face babies. Why were the babies so ugly? Why couldn’t these famous artists get baby faces right? Are babies that hard? I want to run away from these babies!! WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?!

We had no idea. Then I found this video and now we know. (Humor is an added bonus with teens.) Maybe if my college professor had shown funny videos like that I wouldn’t have fallen asleep.

Surf around Ted Ed videos if you do want some outside instruction from time to time. I’ve saved a few on my Pinterest board.

7. Think outside of the box

Don’t limit yourself to traditional art venues or paintings. Teens like the weird and unusual.

Are there any cathedrals in your city with stained-glassed windows? Talk about gorgeous artistry.

Duke University Chapel

One of our previous cities had an art exhibit made entirely from Mardi Gras beads. We were blown away by the creativity.

You can even explore art at a Mellow Mushroom if you’re lucky. The Cary, NC location has hilarious art work.

It may seem that adding in art exploration is just one. more. thing. you have to do when homeschooling high school is already jam-packed. I remember when I felt that way. Ain’t nobody got time to figure out another subject to teach! So don’t. Don’t teach it. Simply explore it.