Freewrite Friday

Where the Arts Collide: Writing at the Cleveland Art Museum

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
― Leonardo da Vinci 

Such a perfect sentiment for the immersions of the arts. In my classroom, I always stress that we are we are learning Language Arts, that we are deconstructing and learning the tools of the writer as artist. Just as we study form, line, shading, and color in art class, so too must we learn how a writer creates images in our heads, constructs characters with which we empathize, and  juxtaposes words to create meaning.

Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to the Cleveland Art Museum. Perhaps this is why it is hands-down my favorite spot to write in Cleveland. As they celebrate their 100th birthday this week, I’d like to share with you my favorite ideas for how to utilize the CAM (or really any art museum) to inspire your next writing endeavor.  Like all our Freewrite Fridays, we hope that this gives you the extra boost you need to write more this week!

The Galleries

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There is plenty by which to be inspired at any art museum. For me, I always get stuck in the impressionists staring at Monet’s Waterlilies. There’s something about his use of color and the movement of the piece that inspires such curiosity in my imagination. What lies below the surface of that water? How deep does this water go? How can one capture such light and such darkness in one image?  

I’m either there or sitting amongst the towering frames of Charles Meynier’s Apollo and the Muses.  These beautifully restored paintings of the different muses are larger than life, and I always feel like they are there to do their job: to inspire the next artist who sits before them.

Wherever you end up in the galleries of the Cleveland Museum of Art, there are sleek light wood benches inviting you to sit a while and write your own musings.

The Atrium

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The newly renovated atrium is also a beautiful place to write. The cafe there runs on the principle that food is also an artistic medium. So grab a little culinary art and a glass of wine, and sit in the wide open atrium at a little cafe table with pen and paper in hand. This beautiful addition to the Museum gives you plenty of opportunity to people watch and plenty of open space for your thoughts to spread out.

The Grounds

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However, as a lover of nature and writing outside in general (seriously, you can’t get me off my porch in the summer), my favorite place to write is on the grounds of the Museum near the lake. With the regal backdrop of the Roman columns and sweeping steps of the Museum, writing near the lake transports you to another time, another world entirely. On a beautiful sunny day, it is a perfect place to relax and contemplate.

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Can’t make it to the Art Museum today (or to Cleveland for that matter)? That’s okay! Try looking through their online collection to find some inspiration!

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Some Art Museum Prompts to get you started:

  • Wander through the galleries until you find a piece that moves you. Begin by writing about the piece–perhaps a description or try to interpret the story it is telling–then attempt to capture the story it tells. 
  • Find a truly famous art piece, write about a world without that artist or piece. What would be the circumstances? What would be lost from the world?
  • Find a portrait and imagine who the person is, what his or her family is like, why they commissioned the painting in the first place, etc. Maybe even attempt to write an entire character sketch about the person in the painting.
  • Choose an art piece and attempt to write about how the artist felt while creating the art piece. Really try to get into his or her head. Attempt to interpret the artist’s inspiration, process while painting, difficulties and triumphs while painting, and the artist’s ultimate opinion of the finished painting.
  • Go to the armory and write an epic battle scene between the different knights who would wield those swords and wear those helmets.
  • Go to one of the ancient galleries to find jewelry cultures lost to the past. Write a piece imagining the person who wore a necklace or bracelet. Who were they? Who gave them the necklace or did the person make it herself? What significance does the ornamentation have for the wearer? 
  • While in the ancient gallery, choose an ornamental plate or a chalice. With whom is the person dining with and why?  What was their dinner conversation like? What does the chalice hold? Poisoned wine? Life-nourishing water? The possibilities and stories are endless! 
  • Art should make you feel something, some connection to the universal. So, choose an art piece and connect it to something in your life. Some emotion, some event, some struggle, some triumph, and let your stories collide.

How have you combined the arts in your own writing? What artists or art pieces inspire you the most?

Lit & Love,

Amy Signature

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