Our own Deborah Nelson-Linck, longtime Cathedral parishioner and kindergarten teacher at Long Elementary School, has written a helpful guide for us to help our youngest parishioners live with the Icons in Transformation exhibit. Thanks, Debbie!
The Icon exhibit will be with us for a long time and we need to know how to live among the new works of art.
What is an icon?
An icon is a religious work of art, commonly a painting.
The icon is usually a flat panel painting of a holy being or object such as Jesus, Mary, saints, angels or the cross.
What are icons for?
Icons are for looking at. Many people stare at icons and it helps them to focus or center their thinking. It helps their prayers to be more focused and they are not distracted by things around them.
Some people just enjoy the beauty of the pictures.
Can we touch the icons?
When an artist creates a work, they like to show it to many people. If too many people touch what an artist has created, it changes. It’s like if you make something with clay and you’re very proud of it and you show it to your friends and family and everybody touches it. Some people will handle it carefully but others might be rough with it or some people might have a firm touch. Soon the clay changes shape and doesn’t look like it did at first.
So…...Icons are for looking at. A good way to look at any piece of art, your friends or an artist at the art museum or the art in the cathedral is first think of a good place to put your hands so you won’t be tempted to touch. You can put your hands at your side, behind your back or in your pockets. You can put your hands together, but use your eyes to touch the painting.
How can I get around the icons?
The best way around the icons is to walk. There are sooo many things to see, you don’t want to rush past. Touching can also be with your body, you don’t want to accidentally knock into any piece of art. Always, walk carefully around the icons.
Can I climb through the big icons or lean on them?
Again, the icons are for looking, enjoying their beauty and centering in prayer. Although some of the big icons might look fun to climb through, like on a playground, we don’t want to accidentally knock a piece over or hurt it so it doesn’t look like the artist wanted it to look.
How can we help care for the icons?
You can tell people about the icons, about how they are a gift the cathedral is sharing with St. Louis. You can keep them safe by not touching them and walking carefully around them and reminding others to do the same. The icons are a gift from the artist for us to share with anyone who visits the cathedral. It is our job to take care of them and return them to the artist the way she gave them to us so she can share them with others.
Bring in some play dough and make a bowl. Pass it around to the group. Assign some people a job when handling the bowl. You will be rough, you will be gentle, you will be firm etc. Talk about how the bowl looks when you have passed it all the way around the group. Help the group to understand that too many hands can change the art (bowl) so that it does not look like the artist wanted it to look.
Tell the children they are going to tour the icons. Talk about what they will do with their hands while they are on the tour. Leader, place your hands behind your back and show the group your choice for looking at the icons. Take a walk around several pieces; compliment those who are making good choices with their hands. Thank them for taking care of the art.
Stop at one piece of art, talk about what it looks like. How might that feel, without touching it? What did the artist use to make the icon? Stare at it, does it make you think anything or feel any special way? Does it look back at you? Etc.