We are “world-schooling” our three children as we travel. One of the reasons for this journey was to experience the world with and through our children’s eyes and to facilitate nurturing passions that arise in them naturally. We never know what will resonate with each of them prior to arriving somewhere so we have developed a strategy. After a few days of observation somewhere new, what breathes life into that place, surfaces naturally and clearly and it ends up framing our time. In many parts of Italy, food often framed our lessons around history and conquests. In Provence, art in many forms, emerged as our learning framework.
We had chocolat chaud at the café where Van Gough painted Cafe Terrace at Night in Arles in the Fall of 1888. We hiked around the base of Mounte Saint-Victoire that Cezanne painted 60 times! We had coffee at Duex Garcons in Aix-en- Provence where Cezanne and Hemingway were known to frequent. We walked the streets of Nice on a bright spring morning where Matisse lived for over 30 years and saw his palette come to life before our eyes. We meandered past the lavender fields on our way to Avignon where students dotted the hillside for open air painting lessons. The landscapes, townscapes and seascapes all looked like a canvas at some point to one or all of us. Each of us saw art in different places and in different ways but we all saw it everywhere.
The highlight or our art experience in Provence was actually at a very unique and wonderful vineyard called Chateau La Coste. At Chateau La Coste the vision is that art, architecture and land come together to inspire and flawlessly educate all who enter the gates.
I have never really experienced a place that was more in balance in every way. There was a harmony between the old and the new that echoed from the tallest hills to the lowest valleys of this 250 acre property. We did a 2 hour art walk in the late afternoon that had our children running from one piece to the next. Modern artists were invited, and continue to be invited, from all over the world to choose the space that speaks to them and create.
Most of the art could be swayed, and pushed and spun. It was a remarkable, tactile way for children AND adults to appreciate art in a completely new and accessible way. Our children love Andy Goldsworthy and have a deep admiration for his work after studying him in their magical school back home. We often find them creating art with natural treasures on beaches and in woodlands that they then photograph and save in their “AG” folder!
When we approached number 8 on the art tour, and they walked underground, inside a REAL Andy Goldsworthy piece called the Oak Room, they were stunned into silence. From there, we worked our way toward the Meditation Bell created by Paul Matisse. He is Henri Matisse’s grandson and the bell captivated our children as they pulled the chords and listed to the sounds bounce of the sun setting over Provence.
The kids played in structures by such architects as Tadao Ando and Frank Gehry as they shot questions back and forth about their favorite pieces and what made them so. They talked about setting and light and personality and how those things come through in art.
This experience forever changed my children’s relationship to art and what constitutes a canvas and what is possible in a way that transcends the lessons we set out to teach.