In a refreshing step away from typically controversial events in the art world, “Sesame Street” released a segment on Feb. 13 in which Cookie Monster, a blue googly-eyed Muppet with a large appetite, roams New York art museums. In the episode, he visits the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
At first, it seems like the Muppet is making a joke of the art world. In the previews, Cookie Monster looks at famous works of art, like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” and makes a comment about the food he wants to eat. While the artworks are physically present in the frame, it seems like they are being dismissed as trivial. There is actually very little attention paid to the artworks and almost nothing said about them, but the message is still a positive one.
Now, of course the Internet has had a field day with this “Sesame Street” episode. People have replaced family friendly artworks, like harmless Monet paintings, with the most controversial pieces in museums to date. While the image of Muppets with a Christopher Wool painting is jarring, Sesame Street made a great move with this episode.
This is a huge step in the right direction for a number of reasons. In today’s day and age, there is constant talk about cutting the arts programs from school curricula and extracurricular activities. While I advocate especially for the visual arts, the presence of theatre, music and visual art has depleted significantly in schools all over the country. The lack of art taught in school has resulted in a lack of awareness, a loss of culture among youth. If parents are not interested in art, where will children be exposed to it? Even if there are arts and crafts in elementary schools, how are kids supposed to discover famous masterpieces and museums? “Sesame Street” is helping children gain an awareness of the concept of museums and all of the work within them.
There is actually a very beneficial effect to exposing kids to artworks at such an early age. It opens museums up to even more eyes and minds, which can only help the museums stay current and dynamic. If “Sesame Street” sparks kids’ interest, more families are likely to visit. While still maintaining the integrity of artworks and their museums, “Sesame Street” has found a way to make a sometimes-serious world light-hearted. Kids will not understand the complexities of an art analysis. Even the titles of paintings could be beyond the intended audience of the show (toddlers). The visuals, however, make a huge impact. By seeing the paintings, with all of their interesting shapes and colors, children are able to develop an idea of what art is and build a connection to famous artworks.
This episode is one small step to creating a more diverse and culturally aware younger generation. It is not incredibly informative, but that suits the show’s millions of toddlers tuning in. This is, in the long run, a more permanent way for kids to develop an appreciation for art.