Art Talk with Kristen Nelson of "Art History Mom"
October 23, 2013
“It's important to teach your children to be lovers of silence. Art forces us to be quiet, observant, and reflective.” –Kristen Nelson
Kristen Nelson aka Art History Mom, lives in Atlanta with her husband, Christian, and their three little masterpieces. A freelance graphic designer and art history enthusiast, she started her blog Art HIstory Mom so both adults and children could view and discuss great works of art together. Recently, I had the chance to chat with Nelson about her background, inspiration, and passion for her blog.
NEA: What do you remember as your earliest engagement with the arts?
KRISTEN NELSON: Having grown up in New Orleans, I went to the French Quarter a lot with my father. I was exposed to all sorts of great music, architecture, art and photo galleries. As a youngster, I was both inspired and intrigued by all the art that surrounded me.
NEA: What made you interested in art history?
NELSON: My passion for the arts grew even deeper in my teen years when I attended Metairie Park County Day. I was very lucky because the school had an excellent art curriculum and amazing facilities. In high school, I was in an Honors art program that met one hour a day—almost unheard of in schools now. I was also fortunate enough to have a very supportive art teacher, Kathleen Banton, who encouraged me to pursue a career in art history. At Colorado State University, I studied fine art and art history. While in college, I spent a summer in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy, studying Renaissance frescoes. In my late 20s I decided to take a break from my advertising career in Atlanta and go back to Italy. Through Trinity College's Elderhostel program, I lived in Rome and led tours of the Italian art scene throughout the country. Beauty is everywhere in Italy—food, architecture, clothes! And I loved Rome; it is an inexhaustible city!
NEA: What was your inspiration for the blog, and why do you think art history is an important subject for children?
NELSON: Having three children of my own, I often asked myself what images are kids seeing that are inspiring them? Art makes you think and is engaging. I wanted others to feel like beauty is just a click away. It's important to teach your children to be lovers of silence. Art forces us to be quiet, observant, and reflective. Children need silence. We need to teach them what's true and beautiful. Art not only teaches about beauty and ideas but also about culture and history. Art can be a door to so many other things. While the Internet is a wonderful and innovative tool, it can also keep us from reflecting and interacting with each other. Children are so bombarded with mental clutter and distractions these days. Technology can separate families. I wanted to create something online that can bring families together so they can see beautiful works of art together.
NEA: Your blog does a great job of highlighting exhibits in museums around the country. What would you say to the person who feels children don't belong in museums but rather on the playground?
NELSON: I understand parental angst over museums. We once went to an exhibit that had cars and my son got mad because he was not able to actually get in the cars. You have to prepare kids before they go to museums and exhibits. Parents need to understand that it's fine to go to a museum for just half an hour or show your child just one painting.
Art can be intimidating. Learning how to engage children in museums can be even more intimidating! Click here for some of Kristen's tips for a successful trip to an art museum with kids, or read advice from educators at Blue Star Museums.