During a conversation about how people develop a deep appreciation of the visual arts, Andy Maus asked me about my experience. As I thought about it, I realized that my love of art was unlikely. My family didn’t go to galleries or the St. Louis Art Museum ever, we owned no art books or even pictures on the walls. I did have art instruction in grade school but was told I wasn’t any good and would never be an artist. Although that was discouraging, I was a bookish child and loved to read just about anything I could get my hands on, so I looked at “pictures” in my Little Golden Book Encyclopedias.
I remembered a third grade school field trip we took to the St. Louis Art Museum, and how one sculpture in particular fascinated me: a grotesque reclining marble figure of a half-man, half- beast that I could examine at eye level. Later, whenever I thought about art, I thought about that sculpture. It was probably ten years before I would see it again and learned that it was Reclining Pan by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli, an Italian sculptor who created this piece in 1535. It was the first work I sought out when I finally returned as a young adult. To this day, I have to view the piece whenever I return.
I had taken humanities classes in high school and discovered the Impressionists and Post- Impressionists. When the museum hosted an major exhibit of Vincent Van Gogh’s work during my senior year, I stood in line for several hours to view some of the paintings that I had only seen in books. I was hooked!
As impoverished college students my friend Penny and I were able to walk into the museum as often as we liked since admission was absolutely free. I will never forget reading the mission at each visit: Dedicated to Art and Free to All. I was so grateful to have access to the genius and inspiration that the museum housed. Later when I was earning an adult salary, I joined the Friends of the St. Louis Art Museum to support this incredible museum that supported my development as a human being.
Providing access to the arts is so important in helping young people develop their curiosity and creativity. I’m still not an artist, but those who know me know that I have a deep commitment to institutions that provide opportunities to young people so they can develop as individuals and as members of a greater community. I’m happy that our own Minnesota Marine Art Museum provides this access free of charge to students every Tuesday. As a member, I can walk in whenever I want to view the special exhibits and old favorites, like my beloved Impressionists: Still grateful after all these years….