Art Passport Adventure #1: A Day of Reflection at the DIA

Art Passport Adventure #1: A Day of Reflection at the DIA

By Barbara K. Stump, MA

When was the last time you visited a museum? Have you had experiences with looking at art in museums which has allowed you a time for reflection? Has it felt relatable or maybe even healing?  Have you found art which you could interact and engage with? Possibly even laugh during your visit there? Have you visited the museum by yourself, or shared your experience with friends, children, a parent, or your partner? Museums represent the past, the current, and sometimes glimpses of the future. It’s amazing how fast one year leads into the next, and cliche as it may be the years between being a teenager to adult to a senior citizen flies by in a wink of an eye. As we go into the New Year, what are your hopes and how will you be more intentional with your time? 

In the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, there is a poignant scene when all of the characters are at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the character named Cameron is gazing at the dots (pointillism) in the painting,”A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by Georges Seurat. In my opinion, it feels like he is expressing melancholy thoughts about growing up, as well as realizing the ramifications from the events of their day of skipping school. It’s a great movie, with lots of funny scenes highlighting this day as the best day ever, and one they will not soon forget.  

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to feel like I was skipping school with my good friend, Carole, who also is a retired teacher. We road tripped to the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum to see the “Van Gogh in America” Exhibit. Both of us were very excited about seeing it, even kind of giddy! Honestly, going to a museum with no other responsibilities other than ourselves on a weekday seemed like we might get in trouble or something! Ok, maybe we did work on our Andy Warhol impersonations while we were there…. (wink, wink) 

Regardless of our antics that day, I am a huge Van Gogh fan! My heart aches for him as much as I admire his work. It is so sadly ironic he is celebrated as one of the most important painters of all time, and yet during his own lifetime he struggled with acceptance, depression, and anxiety.  His mental health was so paralyzing he claimed his own life after his 37th birthday. Despite all of his challenges with mental illness, he continued to paint. When you see his work in person, the first thing you will probably notice are these beautifully intentional brush strokes (impasto) on his paintings. It’s like you could envision him painting in front of you. We both loved the show! I should let you know now this exhibit will be coming to an end soon at the DIA, on January 22, 2023.


In addition to the Van Gogh exhibit, there are a magnitude of other wonderful pieces to engage in and learn about at the DIA.  We were very lucky on the day we were there to speak with a well versed docent regarding the “Detroit Industry Mural” by Diego Rivera. The symbolism and magnatude of this mural, painted in 1933, is fascinating and historical.  It’s incredible to view so many subjects presented in this mural, which are still viable issues today.

In departing from our visit at the DIA, I would like to share one more of Vincent Van Gogh’s pieces  titled,”Stairway at Auvers”, 1890. This painting is a good example of one point perspective. All paths, and lines, seem to travel in the same direction and converge together.  In the New Year, I hope you are able to safely travel on a chosen path. If you are able to visit a museum this year, may you allow yourself to relax and be in your own thoughts, even for a few moments. Happy trails in 2023!

Barb is an Art Education Consultant and G3 Contributing Writer.  Her posts focus on how the arts and culture intertwine and support mental health. Art Passport Adventures run about once a month and feature ways that we can use art to enrich our experiences and improve mental wellbeing. 

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