Blue Star Voices
Garrett Hoppin. Photo courtesy of Mr. Hoppin
It is incredible how much can change in the span of three years.
When the Blue Star Museum program began in 2010, it was only available at 600+ museums, a number that now pales in comparison to the whopping 1800+ museums that offer free admission to military families between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
I remember my first two events very well, specifically the fact that I was not a fan of having to take time out of my summer schedule to go to museums (I was a brat of a high school student, and not just in the colloquial military sense). I made it clear to my mom that I did not want to take road trips from Northern Virginia to Charleston, South Carolina, to visit the Gibbes Museum and later to New Orleans to visit the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. I argued to stay home for a solid two weeks, because what spouse doesn’t need a surly, argumentative teenager to deal with while his/her service member is deployed?
I ended up enjoying my experiences at both museums. At the Gibbes I learned so much about the history of Charleston from the knowledgeable curators and was also able to meet several cast members from Lifetime’s Army Wives. The Ogden Museum of South Art was great as well, and I loved learning the history of New Orleans through art, specifically the post-Hurricane Katrina period. I especially liked perusing the galleries with my dad since he had just returned from a six-month deployment in Kuwait. The time that we spent together in the museum, and the time that my family spent on those road trips, became one of the highlights of my summer.
Fast-forward two years (we were sadly a smidge busy with the transition to college the summer after senior year to visit any museums), and you’ll notice that I am not the same person that begrudgingly went to museums with my parents as I was in the past. When asked about whether or not I wanted to go to a Blue Star Museums event at the Art Institute of Chicago, I jumped on the opportunity and immediately began planning out which galleries my parents and I had to visit on our trip (if you find yourself in Chicago, I would highly recommend taking as much time as possible in the Lichtensetin exhibit because it is incredible, and make sure to bring a camera).
I am no longer the surly teenager that was “forced” to go on a road trip to South Carolina and Louisiana, but rather a jovial college student who misses spending quality time with his parents.
I appreciate that the Blue Star Museum program exists not only because it allows military families to visit incredible museums for free, but most importantly, because it affords families the opportunity to get out of the house and just spend time together.
Parents, please make use of this program because although you might have to coax your kids into going, they will appreciate the time they got to spend with you somewhere down the line as well as the massive amount of knowledge they will gain at the museums.
And kids/fellow teenagers, give your parents a break and enjoy the art all of these museums have to offer and the time you are spending with your parents. One day, you’ll be living in a college dorm, working on a paper at 3 a.m. and wish you could just call your mom or dad for some wisdom (but you won’t because you’ll respect the fact that unlike you, people actually sleep at night), and you’ll think back to the happy times that you had at that one museum that one summer. Trust me.
A lot can change in three years. The Blue Star Museums program tripled the number of participants, and my love for quality time with my parents grew exponentially. Get a head start on me and start using this program early. Your kids will appreciate it once they start to move out of the house and into the real world, a time when recalling happy, family memories is the best way to make it through a rough night.
Garrett Hoppin, an Air Force brat, is a sophomore at the George Washington University majoring in international affairs. When he isn’t working as the outreach coordinator for GW Veterans or planning rush events for his fraternity, he works on learning to scull on the Potomac River and spends time with friends and family.