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Taking the Kids: A new, innovative way to experience Monet's art, especially for kids

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

The little water lily was so sad. She was born without any color and didn't think she was beautiful like the others.

"You are special and will do great things," her mother assured her. She revealed her little petal's very special power -- her ability "to visit anywhere in the world and pick the colors of your choosing for your petals."

All she had to do was imagine where she wanted to go, close her petals, say the place out loud ... and when she opened her petals again, she would be there. Wouldn't it be nice if we all could do that?

But for the little water lily to finally get the color she so craved, she had to be able to describe what it looked like. Maybe that's something you could try next time you are in an art museum with the kids!

When the little lily had accomplished that challenge, her mother promised, the color will "jump onto your petal and transform the way you look!" And the way kids consider the great Impressionist artist Claude Monet.

Welcome to the Denver Art Museum and the most comprehensive U.S. exhibit of Monet paintings in more than two decades -- Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature. This will be the only museum in the country to have this landmark exhibit (until Feb. 2) before it travels to the new Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany, which partnered with the Denver Museum to make this happen. I'm pleased to report that at the Denver Art Museum kids, up to 18, are free, and pay just $5 for special exhibits.


(Lonely Planet, which just named Denver a top U.S. city to visit in 2020,cites the Denver Art Museum as the Mile-High City's second top attraction, right after Union Station.)

"What I would wish kids to take away is Monet's enormous love of nature," said Christoph Heinrich, director of the DAM, and himself the father of two children. He suggested that Monet's paintings might help us all appreciate nature more.

And in some cases, a familiarity with a particular work of art might inspire a child to want to visit a particular place -- that was the case when my daughter Mel, then about eight, insisted we visit Monet's home at Giverny outside Paris because she had read and loved the classic story about Linnea in Monet's Garden by Christina Bjork. I still smile thinking of that determined little girl leading her family on that expedition and showing me how excited kids get when they are allowed to lead the way, not to mention leading parents and siblings in new directions.

Traveling families and art lovers will love this Monet exhibit and the opportunity to start a dialog with kids about how we each react to new places in different ways. Monet, more than any of his fellow impressionists, traveled to capture nature in different places -- from the Normandy coast to the sunny Mediterranean, foggy London, the Netherlands and winter in Norway. Of course, there are some water lilies. The exhibit, which includes loans from major museums and private collections around the world, is arranged thematically and chronologically, which will make it easier for kids to follow; especially with the little lily as their guide as she interacts with green leaves on the coast of Normandy, a carriage wheel in Paris, a drawbridge in the Netherlands, a smokestack in London and even Claude Monet's son, Jean.


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