Kid Favorites at Mia

A Friend and Art Adventure Guide shares a touching example of Mia’s kid-friendly artworks

China, Jiangsu Province, Lake Tai Region, Tang-li Rock garden, replica of 1700s garden, tile, rock, and plants. Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton

The rock garden is always a hit with the kids on my Art Adventure tours. When we enter the space, I invite them to sit on the mosaic stone floor and touch it.  The floor is part of the artwork and is a rare opportunity for the children to touch a piece of art at Mia.

Everywhere else, we (try!) to stay at least one foot away from the art, but here, in this small space, we can touch the smooth, rounded stones and trace the mosaic shapes, which resemble lily pads in a pond. It’s kind of a thrill and a nice break for them after so much keeping-hands-to-themselves. 

I ask them to imagine they’re as small as a mouse and then explore the garden. The children find amazing pathways and see wonderfully different things in these irregularly shaped rocks. And in this garden, that is the intent. Each rock and plant is placed carefully, so their shapes are distinct against the plain, white wall. In this cozy space, the imagination is inspired, and one can contemplate the vastness and wildness of nature.

We then talk about the people who would own such a garden, the literati, or Chinese scholar-officials, about how hard they studied in school, and the things they were interested in—reading, writing, painting, calligraphy, and poetry. This garden and the study next to it give us a glimpse of these learned people’s lives from so long ago. We can imagine how they would spend their day.

In Art Adventure, the children first see the art images in their classroom and then get to come to Mia and see the real art. They’re amazed and excited to be in the museum, where the art lives, for all to enjoy. Their sense of wonder is clear in their faces and the questions they ask throughout their tour. I am honored to be a part of the beauty, inspiration, and wonder of this museum and the all-important mission to share it with children.

-Barb Mikelson