Art & Art History


This site will be perpetually under construction!

First, a short diatribe which you can read or ignore. I admit it. I’m a purist when it comes to art. I think kids (and adults) should get their hands dirty. Creating a charcoal drawing on the computer screen is not the same as using charcoal on paper. A cute little finger icon may attempt to duplicate the smudge, but real smudging stems from a relationship between artist, paper, and medium (and results in charcoal deeply embedded in your finger tips and finger prints on the edge and back of your paper). While computer art programs should be treated as a separate medium (legitimately so), they should not be used as a poor substitute for other mediums. A knowledge of how a medium (charcoal, conte crayon, watercolor, guauche) actually works will make the artist using the computer better.

Art Museums & Exhibitions (Some favorites)

The beauty of the computer is not the computer art routines, per se, but the access it gives young artists to the broader world of art and access to tools and information they would not have otherwise.

One of my favorite programs from the MIA website is called The Artist’s Toolkit. It now resides in their archive, but is still available and is a wonderful resource. Other online resources from MIA include:

World Myths & Legends, where art meets myth; and Surrounded by Beauty: Arts of Native America.

As an aside: Years ago, I worked for the Office of Exhibition and Scheduling at the Minneapolis Institute of Art while I was a student at MCAD (Minneapolis College of Art and Design) which was right next door. If I didn’t think museums were magical before, I did after I worked for MIA. There are reasons why museums are public experiential institutions…places that encourage exploration and creativity and innovation in ways that are beyond the capabilities of computer programs and public school classrooms. The Minneapolis Institute of Art is supported by the folks in Minnesota (bless their hearts)…the reality is that all museums (history, science, the arts) are supported, at least in part by public funding because they help to preserve the best of us, help us see the world beyond ourselves, and remind us of where we have been and where we are going. We are a far poorer nation without them.

  • Art Encyclopedia 2012. Probably one of the single best art resources available online. Use it in conjunction with the Google Arts Project (see below). The site is still under construction, but it has a wealth of information, from a good overview of artistic movements to artistic mediums to artists. This site would have made study art history a whole lot easier (then again, so too would taking art history courses at a time other than 8 a.m.–a freshman mistake).
  • ArtCyclopedia. A terrific resource. The site is primarily a links list to nearly every art museum world-wide. The sites are organized by continent, then country (and in the US, by state). While I’ve listed some personal favorites below, the art of the world has never been closer and this site makes it far easier to find and to explore.
  • Google’s Arts Project. Ever wanted to tour the MoMA in New York or the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam? The Art Project gives you direct access to the museums and to the artwork. In most cases, you can look at a painting in far greater detail than you would be able to otherwise. For kids who are interested in painting, this is a great resource. Truth be told, I wish this resource had existed when I was slogging through all of the art history requirements.
  • National Portrait Gallery: American Origins, 1600-1900. An online exhibit from one of the museums of the Smithsonian.
  • The National Gallery of Art: NGA Kids. This site is incredibly cool. Not only does it give a great crash course in history, it also provides a wealth of projects you can tackle at home. If you really want to avoid the mess of art (which is where most of the fun comes in), check out their online interactive art programs. Note: the online art programs do require that you have Adobe Shockwave installed on your computer. If you don’t have Shockwave, they do provide a link to the plug-in. The download takes very little time and will work on DOS and Mac computers. You will need to close your browser window, so you may want to bookmark the NGA page before going through the installation process.
  • Archives of American Art (another part of the Smithsonian–a very cool place and a very cool way to spend government revenues).
  • MetMedia. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York). MetMedia is less interactive than the Google Art Project and doesn’t allow as much intimate exploration. It does however have some interesting online exhibits, lectures, podcasts, and kids exhibits and activities. The activities are not particularly active and may not hold the attention of kids have a fondness for “PacMan Death Watch” or whatever the most recent “in” game. Still, there is a lot of good information, especially on Ancient Egypt.
  • The Smithsonian: Luce Foundation Center for American Art. No list would be complete without the Smithsonian. The Luce Center offers some of the same features as Google’s Art Project, namely the ability to look at a painting or other work in more detail than you might be able to observe in the actual gallary. They have some very cool activities on the site, including an online scavanger hunt that encourages kids to really look at detail.
  • The Watts Towers. Just for the sheer coolness of it. While they really should be seen in person, the online at least give a taste of the whole.
  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art: Make Art at Home. The online site has some interesting offerings, but the best part is the “Make Art at Home” Pages, including mosaic and quilting projects. The projects are fairly straight forward and allow for a lot of creativity. You can pick up the supplies for the projects here at the Cambria Toy Station and then have at it.
  • SAM (The Seattle Art Museum). For accessible online content and some great exploratory materials, this is a great site. When you enter the site, click on the scrolling exhibits at the top of the page. They will take you individual sites for the exhibits. Strong interactive and multi-media materials. It is probably no surprise that art museums like SAM do far more with computer based/ internet-based materials than some of the older, more established museums on the East Coast. They also have a stronger emphasis on multicultural materials and modern art. Good stuff.

Artists & Art History

  • Art History Guide for Kids, from education writer, Chloe Mayer and the folks from Borro. The site provides a brief overview of the history of art and a number of the major movements. It also has, possibly, one of the best links collections on art and art history that we’ve seen. We are especially fond of the Scavenger Hunt. We urge you to explore the site. Our thanks to the author for the head’s up.
  • Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, from the folks at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • History of Art for Kids (from the folks at
  • A. Pintura, Art Detective. Art history meets choose your own mystery. from the folks at Eduweb, a digital publishing company specializing in designing educational games specifically for museums. There are also some excellent articles on the site.

Go to Your Studio and Make Stuff….The Fine Arts Chapter.

One of the reasons we carry art supplies, not just kits (although we have those too) is that art, especially as unstructured play, is one of the best ways to explore the world, learn creativity and problem solving, and just have a whole lot of fun.

Sometimes, however, it is a good idea to have some inventive projects to toss in your kid’s direction, especially when the weather is really crummy. We added in a list of sites with some excellent resources and suggestions for art projects. Some of the projects will require a bit of preparatory work (collecting needed items and supplies), but the projects will give you and your child a chance to explore the world around them and perhaps see things in different ways (yes, we are suggesting you roll up your sleeves as well).

In-House Sculpture Tools: First, two building sets that we carry are ideally suited to learning about form and function.

  • KEVA Planks  KEVA Planks may be one of two of the coolest sculpture tools available. If you haven’t tried either, stop by the shop and test them out. First KEVA’s, we have a 200 piece set in the shop that you are welcome to play with. Their online website has some terrific ideas for projects you can tackle, regardless of your level of skill. KEVAS are great for kids and adults with an interest in art, architecture, engineering, construction, and nearly every other field where thinking in three dimensions is important.

 Other cool sites

  • Incredible @rt Department ( Rather than reinventing the wheel….these folks have created a fairly complete list of art related websites. We’ll add more that we find along the way, but this is an excellent starting spot.
  • Art Projects for Kids: Classroom Tested Art Projects for K-5 and Beyond. Some really neat ideas. While the blog author has a fair amount of materials for sale, you can scan through the articles and find ideas that should be good for summer projects.
  • Tinkerlab: Creativity / Kids / Family. Terrific way to learn about modern artists and play with art at the same time, including Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Edward Hopper.
  • Kids Get Arty: Red Ted Art: Bringing Colour & Art to Children’s Hearts. Project featuring projects based on 20th Century and Contemporary artists (Andy Warhol, Karel Appel, David Hockney…).
  • Jackson Pollock for Kids. Included on the No Time for Flashcards site.
  • Visual Thinking Strategies. Visual Literacy and Critical Thinking: K-5 and adults…
  • Kinder Art. Some terrific projects.

Go to Your Studio and Make Stuff….The Crafts & Activities Chapter

Rainy Day Activities: Activity Village. One of our favorite sites for interesting craft and art projects, not to mention games and coloring pages. Activity Village is a British site. They have a terrific collection of seasonal activities as well. Some of our personal favorites are:

Window Decoration Craft Projects. A site suggested by one of our “creative play” fans. Some of the projects are a bit more involved than others, but there is some great stuff, here. Thanks, Jen.

Arts & Crafts Projects for Kids. A clearinghouse site for all sorts of craft and arts projects, including all of those craft projects you remember from summer camp.  The site is part of a larger site designed for homeschoolers.

Other Craft Sites to check out:


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