Ryan Trares on parenting: Awe and wonder at the museum

We stood beneath the passing clouds and twinkling stars, gaping in wonder.

Though we were surrounded by beautiful works of priceless art, it was this immersive natural experience that was particularly awe-inspiring.

The family decided to spend our Saturday at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. We consider the museum one of the treasures of this area; the combination of classic and contemporary art paired with unique festivals and experiential events makes it interesting for all three of us.

Activities such as the Harvest event, with pumpkin painting and spooky nighttime trail walks, and the millions of twinkling bulbs of Winterlights have become seasonal traditions for us. Plus, Anthony loves art, so exposing him to the best from around the world has helped expand his own creativity.

So when the museum announced its reimagined Clowes Pavilion was finally opening to the public after a years-long renovation, we took advantage of a free Saturday to check it out.

Originally opened in 1972, the pavilion was one of the most distinctive spaces in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, with its medieval-inspired architecture housing the European Old Masters collection. Museum officials updated the galleries physically, while also altering the artwork displayed inside.

Traditional favorites such as Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait” and the Raphael-designed tapestry “The Miraculous Draught of Fishes” are shown alongside objects from other parts of the permanent collection, such as “Duvor (Communal Cloth)” by the Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui.

Together, they offered commentary on the way art captures the human experience that crossed race, gender and time.

Those changes alone were worth the visit to the museum. But it was the centerpiece of the new pavilion that was truly astonishing.

On the ceiling of the two-story main courtyard gallery, museum officials installed 522 ultra-high definition LED panels, with 8K screen resolution and a high-fidelity audio system. Images from the natural world, from falling autumn leaves to the tangled canopy of a tree to fields of flowers, rotate against the backdrop of soothing music.

We stood off to the side of courtyard, heads tilted up, simply watching. Anthony silently stood between us, holding my hand on one side and my wife’s on the other. It was a rare moment of quiet for a kid who has an opinion about everything.

Granted, it only lasted about 10 minutes. Attention spans only endure for so long. We did a quick circuit around some of the other galleries to peer at American landscapes and European still lifes before moving on for the day.

Still, our experience left an impression. As we were walking out, he asked softly, “Can we come back again soon?”

You can be sure we will.