About the Holiday
Celebrating art is always a great thing! This month we celebrate art created in America. The unique history, landscape, population, and cultural influences of the United States fosters artwork that is distinctively American. This month gives us the opportunity to explore pieces dating back to the founding of our country as well as the paintings, sculpture, crafts, pottery, and other arts being created today. Take the time to visit museums, galleries, arts and craft shows, and theaters to discover old favorites and new inspiration.
Written by Jon Scieszka | Illustrated by Lane Smith
A little boy has arranged to meet his friend Art at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-third Street in New York City. When he arrives, however, Art isn’t there. The boy asks a woman nearby, “‘Have you seen Art?’” The lady points him in the direction of a beautiful new building further down the street. When he gets there, the boy doesn’t see Art, but he does meet an official-looking gentleman. “‘You seen Art?’” the boy inquires.
“‘MoMA?” the man asks. The boy thinks, didn’t the lady ask the same thing? Figuring it’s some kind of code word, he answers, “‘Yes.’” Great news! The building is just opening, the man tells him. After giving another woman the code word, the boy is led upstairs. She stops in front of a painting with blue swirls, writhing trees, and a moon glowing over a quiet village. “‘Can’t you just feel the restlessness? The color? The emotion?’” The boy can feel it, but he’s more interested in finding Art.
A little man standing nearby seems to know where to go, and he leads the boy through a room filled with more paintings and sculpture. The man stops in front of a painting. “‘Look at that red! Look at that open box of crayons inviting us in. The grandfather clock? It has no hands. Time is suspended.’” The boy sees all this too. But, really, what he wants to know is—“‘is Art here?’”
A little girl across the room knows what he means. She can show him art. She takes him past a fur-covered teacup and spoon to a painting of an eye. But this is no ordinary eye. Instead of blue, brown, or green, this eye is clouds. “‘Your dream can be what is real,’” she explains. They see another painting with a melting clock in which time is messed up too, but it’s still not Art.
Suddenly, a painter hugs the boy for his astute observation. He asks, is art “‘trying to capture dreams? Or is it making images everyone can recognize?’” Next, a lady shows the boy an alarming painting of a woman with whom she identifies, and a baby points out a picture of a brown “‘moo moo’” cow. It seems that in every corner there is another person expounding on a painting in front of them: the shapes, the mystery!, the composition, the color, the atmosphere.
But each time the boy answers, “‘Not exactly the Art I was looking for.’” Perhaps, he is interested in the Bell-47D1 helicopter hanging from the ceiling. Is it art? The boy strides past more pieces; they are puzzling, personal, playful, provocative and powerful. Art is not just paintings, he is told. Finally! They seem to be getting it. He begins to ask one more time about his friend, but he’s shown more photographs, sculpture, objects, and films.
The boy decides he needs to find Art on his own. He discovers a majestic painting as long as two rooms, a slippy-slidey chair, images of soup cans that make him hungry…the café…and sculptures of a family and a goat. Soon itvs time to leave. Back on the sidewalk and feeling dejected, the boy thinks he’ll never find his friend. “‘Hello, again,’” he hears. It’s the lady he met that morning. “‘Did you find art?’” she asks.
The boy is about to say no, but he remembers everything he has seen. “‘Yes,’” he answers. And when he finds Art waiting for him, the two go through MoMA again.
Notes on each piece along with thumbnail images follow the text.
With clever word play, a humorous nod to the juxtaposed ideas “I know what I like/I like what I know,” and a wink at the world of art criticism, Jon Scieszka takes readers on a tour of the art collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The simple misunderstanding of the word Art in the story introduces children to the nature of interpretation and the variety of forms it can take. Through the many people the little boy meets, Scieszka presents a fabulous opportunity for adults and children to talk about opinions and how each person can have their own while accepting those of others. Scieszka’s rich language is as enticing as the art presented and gives kids and adults a vast vocabulary to use in talking about what art—and life—has to offer.
Lane Smith’s simple line-drawn and abstract figures are the perfect tour guides to the reproductions of famous paintings, sculpture, installations, and other art found at MoMA. Printed in full, vibrant color, the artwork dazzles, drawing readers in to stop and explore each image. An excellent survey of classic and modern pieces will delight and fascinate kids.
For art lovers and those just discovering the world of creativity, Seen Art? is an absorbing book that will entice both children and adults to learn more about art. The book would be a fun and engaging addition to school art programs or units as well as for home libraries.
Ages 3 – 8 and up
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2005 |ISBN 978-0670059867
Discover more about about Jon Scieszka, his books, and other fun stuff on his website.
View a gallery of book illustration and other artwork by Lane Smith on his website.
American Artists Appreciation Month Activity
Rainbow Crayon Art
With this cool project you can create an art piece that’s as colorful as a rainbow and as unique as you are! Adult help is needed for children.
- Box of 24 crayons
- White foam board or thick poster board, 8 inches by 17 inches
- A small piece of corrugated cardboard, about 5 inches by 5 inches (a piece of the foam board can also be used for this step)
- A small piece of poster board, about 5 inches by 5 inches
- X-acto knife (optional)
- Hot glue gun
- Hair dryer
- Old sheets or towels, newspapers, a large box, or a trifold display board
- Remove the various red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet hued crayons from the box of crayons
- Strip the paper from the crayons by slicing the paper with the x-acto knife, or removing it by hand
- Line them up in order at the top of the white foam board
- With the hot glue gun, attach the crayons to the board with their tips facing down
- Cut an umbrella or other shape of your choice from the poster board
- Trace the umbrella or other shape onto the corrugated cardboard or a piece of the foam board and cut out
- Glue the umbrella or other shape to the foam board, about 4 ½ inches below the crayons, let dry
- Set up a space where you can melt the crayons. The wax will fly, so protect the floor and walls by placing the art piece in a large box or by hanging newspapers, old sheets or towels on the walls and placing newspapers on the floor. A trifold display board and newspapers works well.
- Stand the art piece upright with the crayons at the top
- With the hot setting of the hair dryer, blow air at the crayons until they start to melt
- Move the hair dryer gently back and forth across the line of crayons from a distance of about 6 to 12 inches away. The closer you are to the crayons, the more they will splatter.
- The crayons will begin to melt and drip downward
- You can experiment with aiming the hair dryer straight on or at an angle to mix colors
- Wax that drips onto the umbrella or other shape can be chipped off after it dries or wiped off to create a “watercolor” effect on the shape
- Once the hair dryer is turned off, the wax cools and dries quickly
- Hang or display your art!
Picture Book Review