Inspired by our earlier visit to celebrate the launch of the Arte Kids book series, my three-year-old daughter and I returned to the San Antonio Museum of Art yesterday for a longer tour.
My first visit to SAMA was in the 1990s when I was a teenager and my family had just moved to San Antonio. The museum has grown a lot since then. (See “SAMA’s first guidebook details growing collection”, Elda Silva, San Antonio Express-News, January 14, 2013.) But some elements seem timeless: The core collection of Egyptian, Greek and Roman objects. The ceramics from East Asia. And the skywalk with rainbow neon zig-zags.
Sharing this experience with my daughter gave me the feeling that I was exactly where I needed to be, doing exactly what I needed to be doing.
I’m glad that my daughter is learning her letters and learning to count, but there’s more to education than that. As observers of the beauty in the collections at SAMA, we are part of a shared human experience. Basic skills have more meaning when you understand that they can be put to use for a greater purpose. By “greater,” not just more money or more praise, but something with a positive moral quality.
The Greek and Roman gallery has always been my favorite. I wish benefactor Gilbert M. Denman Jr. were still around so I could thank him. My daughter stopped and stared into the faces of the portrait busts—a profound connection, across so many years. To paraphrase a comment from Erik Twist, headmaster of Archway Classical Academy – Veritas (a Great Hearts school in Arizona), at a recent parents’ meeting: This stuff is not a fad; it’s part of a 3,000 year tradition.
On our gallery walk, my daughter got a kick out of recognizing pictures from the Arte Kids books, including “Toucans” by Hunt Slonem (in 1, 2, 3, Sí!) and “Double Scramble” by Frank Stella (in Hello, Círculos!). More good stuff about Arte Kids: “Education And Innovation In San Antonio: Geekdom And Arte Kids Books”, David Martin Davies, The Source (Texas Public Radio), December 13, 2012 (interview with Emily Morrow Jones); “Bilingual picture books? ¡Sí, por favor!”, Steve Bennett, San Antonio Express-News, December 25, 2012 (featuring Lilliana Gonzalez of My Tots Travel and family).