Art · Field Trips · History · Mathematics · Resources · Writing

Art Detectives

Today’s Thursday Adventure Club* outing was to Te Papa Tongarewa, known simply as Te Papa.

I had let my fingers do the walking and found an interesting link on their site, at the bottom of the What’s on for kids page.  The Family Trails.
I mean, who could pass up he chance of becoming an Art Detective?  Not us.

So this rather soggy Wellington morning saw us in town bright and early.  We headed to the Information Desk and were kitted out with our Art Detective bag and gear.  What did we get?

  • a deerstalker hat (what self-respecting detective goes without one?)
  • a matching cape
  • a pair of Harry Potter-style spectacles
  • a magnifying glass
  • some pipe cleaners
  • a foldable box
  • pencils
  • the Art Detective guide

Once we were all dressed for the occasion, Detective G and Detective M and their guide (me) headed off to Level 5 to work our way through the different galleries and the tasks set out in the AD guide book.

Do they look cute, or do they look cute?

Detective GDetective M

The amount of double takes and smiles the costumes generated was worth it alone.  But, in the process of following the art trail they were exposed to a range of artists and artistic styles.

We started off in the Artist In Focus gallery where they did a bit of counting, writing and creating with their pipe cleaners.  Then we moved through to the Arts Studio, which we will try to visit again when there isn’t a school class in the galleries, where I helped them make their own small cardboard waka huia to store their treasures in.  Then in the same area they had to find and then work out how to use a mystery box to help them with one of the following clues.
Then it was off to the Maori & Pacific Encounters gallery to look at and answer questions about a painting done by John Webber 200 years ago while sailing with James Cook.

Next we headed to the Framing the  View gallery where we used the descriptions noted from the Mystery Box to find an art work.  We did some more counting here and also a bit of geometry.   Miss Oh Waily took over the writing duties from here on.  She also drew the geometrical shapes that were used in the art work.
We stayed here and using a set of three clues supplied in our detective bag we had to work out which painting they represented.  And Miss Oh then had to make up a story to go with that particular piece of art.  I was her secretary here or we would have struggled for space and time.

From here we headed into the gallery Emblems of Identity where we got to see a number of Rita Angus portraits including Rutu which was the subject of this section of the trail.  We learned about symbols in art – in this case a white lotus – and made one of our own for our waka huia.  Then we did several word clues to identify the next artworks including McCahon’s The Valley of Dry Bones and then the kids got to draw their version of some Angus portraits and added speech bubbles to them.  Then we moved on to the Being Modern gallery into the Modern Maori Art gallery where there was more writing and drawing to be done.

Finally we made our way through the Art & Change and Contemporary galleries.  This latter one was a bit of a toughie.  It houses a couple of interesting works by Ralph Hotere which were the subject of another project in the book.  But by this stage they were getting to the end of their attention span (almost an hour and a half of detecting by this time) and the glossy attractions of Michael Parekowhai’s amazing piano was proving a bit much for Detective G.  Clearly she is a tactile person (and curious with it) so I had a bit of trouble keeping her hands off it.

We whizzed through the remaining gallery and we were done.  A fluffy and biscuit were their rewards for being so good at detecting and keeping on the trail for almost the entire time.  They did fabulously well.  And I am most definitely going to keep an eye on the Family Trails section for any new options elsewhere in the museum.  It’s a great way to make kids this little stop and actually look at art in galleries.  It makes it interactive and fun, but not laborious.

A complete Pukeko Patch thumbs up for this activity.

But be aware that they only had four or five detective bags at the information desk.  I’d suggest going early on a weekday in order to ensure your little detectives are able to enjoy themselves.  Oh, and you do have to be interactive throughout the process (not just reading the guide book) so that they get the most out of it.  But well worth it in my opinion.


* My arbitrary name for our family field trips.  Makes it sound flashy for the small ones.

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