I can sit in a museum and stare at a piece of art for a long time …if I’m not with my family. With my kids in tow, a museum experience is, to put it mildly, not nearly as pleasurable.
Upon arrival the kids dash in different directions and often go through all the collections too fast, eliminating any chance I have of gazing lovingly at a painting. By the end of the museum visit we’re all left wondering, “Did any of us appreciate what we just saw?”
One notable exception was a Guggenheim outing with my two younger children, when they relished the chance to sit on the floor with sketchpads and render their own versions of Picasso drawings. Our more recent pilgrimage to The Art of the Brick exhibit (running through May 11) at Discovery Times Square was similarly transformative.
Simply hearing that the exhibit was the world’s largest display of LEGO art was enough to get us all in the door, but what became clear, within the first minutes of watching my kids take their time to size up each sculpture, was that the medium – the LEGO brick – made this art accessible.
Sure, when my kids see a work of art rendered in oils on canvas or in marble, they can appreciate that the art likely took the artist a while to create. But since my children, like many others out there, have built LEGO creations from scratch or have attempted to complete LEGO kits with the aid of the company’s exasperatingly minimalist visual instructions – they really could begin to imagine what an astonishing work ethic artist Nathan Sawaya must have to pull together even one of his masterpieces.
Mark Twain famously suggested that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” and while LEGO may not be a cure for prejudice or bigotry, it has long been an antidote for narrow-mindedness. For proof I turn to The Lego Movie, which sends the message that even though LEGO can be seen strictly as “a highly-sophisticated interlocking brick system,” according to the film’s eventual protagonist, it’s not necessary to follow the instructions, or, concurs Sawaya, “to build what’s on the front of the box.”
Straying from the picture on the box or the instructions within can be scary, as the LEGO Movie’s often hapless hero Emmet discovers. But the best way to get over that fear – and, for that matter, to make your way in the world – is to follow the advice from Emmet’s friend Wyldstyle, aka Lucy: “Build things only you can build.”