Art tour shows young visitors new ways to see

Girl Scouts are taught some perspective while earning badges

May 16, 2004|By Jennifer Lehman | Jennifer Lehman,Sun Staff

The seven Girl Scouts from Queen Anne's County and their chaperons trail Kirsten Schafer as she takes them into a gallery of Egyptian artifacts at the Walters Art Museum.

Schafer, the museum's coordinator of children and family programs, gathers the scouts around a glass box with a human mummy preserved inside. Immediately they are fascinated, and even more so when Schafer leads them to a cat mummy.

"I liked the Egyptian section, especially the mummies and hieroglyphics," says 10-year-old Megan McGill later in the tour.

The girls' visit to the Walters on a recent spring day was part of a museum program, set up last fall, that lets Girl Scouts earn a badge in visual arts.

Instead of giving a historical or fact-based tour, Kathleen Nusbaum, manager of children and family programs at the Walters, says the museum gives the scouts a visual thinking skills tour.

"You ask more questions where there can be a lot of different answers, and children seem to respond to this type of touring in a much more positive way," Nusbaum says.

The Queen Anne's scouts -- six from junior Troop 226, one from cadet Troop 954 -- get an hour-long tour focusing on perspective, followed by a hands-on art project.

Schafer, their guide, tests the girls' knowledge of art while explaining the history and relevance of certain pieces. While looking at an ancient ceramic pot, Schafer asks whether the drawings on it look three-dimensional.

Most scouts correctly shake their heads no, while Schafer explains the concept of atmospheric perspective. "As things get farther away, they look bluer. Lines are not as sharp to us. They're not as clear."

Looking at the View of an Ideal City, a painting of architectural structures that are perfectly balanced, Schafer tells the girls to follow the lines on the sidewalk, noting they all point to the middle, creating linear perspective.

She also explains how colors in a painting can manipulate the way objects appear: red and orange make things appear closer, while blue and purple look farther away.

The scouts then work on their own version of perspective relating to Ideal City. Nusbaum leads the art activity, giving step-by-step instructions to get them started. Nusbaum asks 10-year-old Rheanne Denny what her ideal city would have.

"Lots of color," Denny replies.

"What's your favorite color?" Nusbaum asks.


"So we would have lots of blue in it, then," Nusbaum says, explaining to the group that they could draw and use whatever colors they wanted to.

While Caitlin McClain, 9, says she liked seeing the mummy and cat mummy the best, she also enjoys the drawing activity.

"I'm drawing the outside [as] night because I can draw more detail," she says, describing her ideal city.

Once the girls finish their drawings, Nusbaum gives each a Walters participatory badge. Their tour is the last of the spring, and the program won't resume until the fall.

"We have had a lot of feedback from parents who have boys ... and want to know when we will be doing a Boy Scout program," says Nusbaum, noting that the museum has an interest in eventually expanding the program.

Kelly Giordano, a Queen Anne's parent who accompanied the girls, found the tour informative, and she was impressed by Schafer and Nusbaum.

"The tour guide was very patient," she says. "It was nice that [Nusbaum] taught them a formula so they could [draw] it."

An earlier visitor, Darlene Wolinski, mother of a scout in Troop 2350 in Sparks, says she has a longstanding interest in art and was impressed with the way the museum staff kept the children's attention.

"It's sort of nice to find an activity like that where you can share your interest with your children," says Wolinski, the mother of five.

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