TEACH CHILDREN LOVE OF ART THROUGH STORYTELLING





(_Boston Herald_)

"----And so," ended the story, "St. George slew the dragon."



A great sigh, long drawn and sibilant, which for the last five minutes

had been swelling 57 little thoraxes, burst out and filled the space of

the lecture hall at the Museum of Fine Arts.



"O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!" said 27 little girls.



"Aw-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w, gosh!" said 30 little boys. "Say, Mis' Cronan,

there wasn't no real dragon, was they?" A shock-headed youngster pushed

his way to the platform where Mrs. Mary C. Cronan, professional story

teller, stood smiling and wistfully looked up at her. "They wasn't no

really dragon, was they?"



"'Course they was a dragon! Whadd'ye think the man wanted to paint the

picture for if there wasn't a dragon? Certn'y there was a dragon. I

leave it to Mis' Cronan if there wasn't."



Steering a narrow course between fiction and truth, Mrs. Cronan told her

class that she thought there certainly must have been a dragon or the

picture wouldn't have been painted.



It was at one of the regular morning story hours at the Museum of Fine

Arts, a department opened three years ago at the museum by Mrs. Cronan

and Mrs. Laura Scales, a department which has become so popular that now

hundreds of children a week are entertained, children from the public

playgrounds and from the settlement houses.



On this particular day it was children from the Bickford street

playground under the guidance of two teachers from the Lucretia Crocker

School, Miss Roche and Miss Hayes, who had, in some mysterious manner,

convoyed these 57 atoms to the museum by car without mishap and who

apparently did not dread the necessity of getting them back again,

although to the uninitiated it appeared a task beside which grasping a

comet by the tail was a pleasant afternoon's amusement.



For the most part the story of St. George and the Dragon was a new thing

to these children. They might stand for St. George, although his

costume was a little out of the regular form at Jamaica Plain, but the

Dragon was another thing.



"I don't believe it," insisted an 8-year-old. "I seen every animal in

the Zoo in the park and I don't see any of them things." But the wistful

little boy kept insisting that there must be such an animal or Mrs.

Cronan wouldn't say so.



"That is the way they nearly always take it at first," said Mrs. Cronan.

"Nearly all of these children are here for the first time. Later they

will bring their fathers and mothers on Sunday and you might hear them

explaining the pictures upstairs as if they were the docents of the

museum.



"The object of the story hour is to familiarize the children with as

many as possible of the pictures of the Museum and to get them into the

way of coming here of themselves. When they go away they are given cards

bearing a reproduction of the picture about which the story of the day

has been told, and on these cards is always an invitation to them to

bring their families to the Museum on Saturday and Sunday, when there is

no entrance fee."



The idea of the story hour was broached several years ago and at first

it was taken up as an experiment. Stereopticon slides were made of

several of the more famous pictures in the Museum, and Mrs. Cronan, who

was at the time achieving a well earned success at the Public Library,

was asked to take charge of the story telling. The plan became a success

at once.



Later Mrs. Scales was called in to take afternoon classes, and now more

than 1000 children go to the Museum each week during July and August and

hear stories told entertainingly that fix in their minds the best

pictures of the world. Following the stories they are taken through the

halls of the Museum and are given short talks on some art subject. One

day it may be some interesting thing on Thibetan amulets, or on

tapestries or on some picture, Stuart's Washington or Turner's Slave

Ship, or a colorful canvas of Claude Monet.



It is hoped that the movement may result in greater familiarity with and

love for the Museum, for it is intended by the officials that these

children shall come to love the Museum and to care for the collection

and not to think of it, as many do, as a cold, unresponsive building

containing dark mysteries, or haughty officials, or an atmosphere of

"highbrow" iciness.



"I believe," says Mrs. Cronan, "that our little talks are doing just

this thing. And although some of them, of course, can't get the idea

quite all at once, most of these children will have a soft spot

hereafter for Donatello's St. George."



At least some of them were not forgetting it, for as they filed out the

wistful little boy was still talking about it.



"Ya," he said to the scoffer, "you mightn't a seen him at the Zoo.

That's all right, but you never went over to the 'quarium. Probably they

got one over there. Gee! I wish I could see a dragon. What color are

they?"



But the smallest boy of all, who had hold of Miss Hayes's hand and who

had been an interested listener to all this, branched out mentally into

other and further fields.



"Aw," said he, "I know a feller what's got a ginny pig wit' yeller spots

on 'im and he--" And they all trailed out the door.



* * * * *



(_Christian Science Monitor_)



One illustration, a half-tone reproduction of a photograph showing the

interior of the greenhouse with girls at work.





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