The Art Museum

By Sarah Levesque (Rated G)

Once upon a time, there was an important art museum, and in this museum lived two families: the museum manager, his wife and their son, and the janitor and his son. The boys were close in age, and often played together as small children, but their lives couldn’t have been much more different.

The museum manager had named his son Leo, after Leonardo Da Vinci. Leo had every possession a boy could wish for, but his father was often away on museum business, and even when the father was home, he did not pay much attention to the boy, unless it was to share his excitement over a particular work of art. But the manager did create a list of rules for Leo to follow:

  1. Don’t touch anything in the museum. Ever.
  2. Don’t be loud in the museum.
  3. Don’t run in the museum.
  4. Don’t call attention to yourself. Don’t bother or distract the patrons or tour guides.
  5. Don’t bother Father at work.

Unbeknownst to his father, Leo added a couple more to the list.

      6. Don’t have fun in the museum.

      7. The museum and famous art are more important than me and what I do.

Leo’s mother tried to help her son, but she had no answers to his questions about the artwork, and she would make excuses for his father, then tell him to follow the rules and go play.

The other boy who lived in the museum was named Luke. His father, the janitor, did not have the funds to buy Luke every toy he wanted – he could barely afford food and clothing. When Luke was not at school, he often worked with his father. As they worked, the janitor would teach the boy what he knew of the art pieces they were working near. He encouraged questions and told Luke to listen to the curators and tour guides, and ask them questions, too. In doing so, the janitor taught his son valuable lessons about the value of hard work, a love of learning, history and art. The janitor also supported his son when Luke tried to copy the great works of art he saw daily, but the father always cautioned his son to never be content with copying someone else’s work.

Sometimes the museum held galas, or artists’ receptions, or other events. The museum manager always brought his family, and he expected his son to look and act the part. Leo hated these gatherings. He hated the formal clothes he had to wear. He hated the people who spoke about him, and how the few people who did speak to him always expected him to be some sort of know-it-all, when he wasn’t even allowed to ask questions.

Luke, on the other hand, loved the events. He didn’t like to dress up either, but he accepted the discomfort because he loved to listen to the adults talk, to learn from their conversation and – hopefully – to talk with them. His father the janitor explained each event to him in advance – why a gala was held and who each artist in the receptions were.

Eventually the boys grew up. Leo left the museum as soon as he was able, swearing he would never come back. Ever after, he called it the worst place to grow up. Luke, on the other hand, went to art school and returned to the museum often, eventually seeing his own pieces displayed there, and later, when Leo’s father resigned as museum manager, Luke was hired to replace him.

Leo never learned to appreciate art, equating it always with his father’s “Do Not” list, with frustration and boredom and even hatred, sometimes. Luke, however, shared his own love of art with his own family, with the countless museum patrons, and with multitudes of other people until his death, and even afterward. Each of the museum boys kept track of the other, and each was saddened by the other’s choices they did not understand.

Once, thinking of Leo during one of his many gala speeches, Luke said, “Let us always be mindful of the beauty around us, whether it is here in the museum, or in liturgy, or in nature, or in architecture, or in people, or wherever it may be. Let us teach that appreciation of beauty to the next generations, so they will always see it and never turn their backs on it.”

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