My husband and 11-year-old daughter excitedly exclaimed, “Over here! We found it!” Our 8-year-old daughter and I rushed over to the glass case they were examining. Inside was an ornately decorated ancient Greek drinking cup (which was more like the size of a bowl) of Theseus saying goodbye to his father, Poseidon, as he sailed off to Crete to slay the Minotaur. We also found the surprise secret painting on the inside of Theseus also saying goodbye to his stepmother, Amphitrite. This was just part of the fun we had doing the The Percy Jackson & the Olympians Art Adventure at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Our daughters are huge fans of Rick Riordan’s book series Percy Jackson & the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus to the point that they have learned a tremendous amount about Greek and Roman mythology and are constantly finding references to it in what they see and read every day. When we found out that the Met had an Art Adventure that enabled us to “follow Percy’s footsteps to meet the characters who inspired the book The Lightning Thief,” we knew we had to try it.
This Art Adventure is a scavenger hunt for 9 works of art in the Greek Art, Roman Art, and European Sculpture Galleries of the museum. The guide for the adventure includes a map showing where to find all of the artwork and keepsake cards that describe each piece, how it’s tied to Greek and/or Roman mythology, and how it relates to the world of Percy Jackson.
Our adventure was filled with interesting details like Greek armor weighed 70 pounds since a lot of it was made of bronze. (We also noticed that the cuirass (the Greek chest armor) was often anatomically correct including nipples and 6-pack abs – it isn’t just Hollywood taking artistic license!) It was fascinating looking for the details described on the cards. As we did the scavenger hunt, we also noticed other things about the artwork and stopped to look at many other pieces in the galleries. It was incredible to see how much the ancient Greeks inspired and continue to inspire artists.
Even after we finished our adventure, we found more artwork through the ages that used the same techniques or mythological themes. As we roamed through an Italian gallery, our older daughter gleefully said, “Look! There’s the original Starbucks symbol!” While examining it more closely she explained, “It’s actually a nereid from Greek mythology.”
After lunch we tried the Kings, Wings… Family Guide about the Ancient Near Eastern art. Our older daughter wanted to check it out since she had just learned about Mesopotamia as part of a 6th grade social studies unit. We were like detectives searching for the symbolism and specific cuneiform on the stone walls. Then we searched for 9 different animals as we looked at items found in ancient palaces.
On our way out of the museum we strolled through the Greek Art one more time where I found something unusual. We traditionally think of ancient Greece filled with heroic deeds, epic battles, and scheming, powerful gods. Apparently, the ancient Greeks thought that their gods did slightly more mundane things as well – I saw a vase of Apollo just hanging out while Poseidon and Hermes were fishing.
(As a side note, for those of you with Rick Riordan fans, he was at the Met right after we went and wrote about it in his usually humorous style on his blog (http://rickriordan.blogspot.com/2014/12/a-night-at-museum-hey-that-sounds.html).)
- Skills: Visual acuity (observing small details), gross motor, curiosity
- Preparation: Not really any – just wear comfortable clothes and shoes and be ready to explore!
- Cost: The Art Adventures and Family Guides are free and can be downloaded off of the museum’s website or picked up at the ticket booths. The suggested general admission is $25 for adults, $12 for students, and free children under the age of 12. Family memberships start at $210 per year.
- Time & Energy: It’s a 45-minute to an hour drive from our house. We were at the museum for approximately 5 hours.
- Contact Info: There’s a web page (http://www.metmuseum.org/learn/for-kids/family-guides) with over 30 guides available to enhance a trip to the museum.