Van Gogh Alive at Anchorage Museum

Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

During my school years, studying the works of Vincent Van Gogh was a bit like taking a literature class; necessary, but a bit incomprehensible. He painted ‘Starry Night,’ was perpetually mad, and eventually killed himself rather than face a world that delivered more pain than joy…—–> OK, let’s get real: I learned that Van Gogh cut off his ear and sent it to a prostitute (or so the story goes).

I understood Van Gogh 101: One dimensional, one legend, one style of art. Perhaps, then, the arrival of Van Gogh Alive last week at the Anchorage Museum was more timely than I had realized. My son is nearly 11, and old enough to appreciate the masters of art and, maybe, literature. Or was he?

The premise behind Van Gogh Alive is to heighten perception, observe what before was deemed unobservable, and maybe leave the third floor gallery with a new understanding of a tormented life that came alive only while putting brush or pencil to paper.

Through lighting, sound, and visual texture provided by Van Gogh’s most famous (and a few infamous) paintings, visitors to Van Gogh Alive will not merely view a two-dimensional art gallery that (yawn) could be anywhere, they will become part of the foreground. Here, parents, is where you may bring your children for their first visual art experience. With 3,000 images moving through the entire gallery, accompanied by music that reflects Van Gogh’s countries of residence in The Netherlands, Belgium, and France, each Van Gogh painting is vividly displayed on enormous screens that provide both hyper-fine detail and a broader view, with quotes meaningful to the moment.

Don’t be misled by the darkness; talk about the paintings, music, and words with your kids, and discuss the color tones that fluctuate from year to year of Van Gogh’s life. This is an important opportunity of art appreciation and children need to be able to talk about it. Benches line the walls of each separate room, take time to sit and view the slides and listen to the corresponding score, and don’t be afraid to allow kids the personal space to sit on the floor and simply stare; I did, too.

Sketching a bit after visiting Van Gogh Alive at the Anchorage Museum. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Sketching a bit after visiting Van Gogh Alive at the Anchorage Museum. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Who should attend? 

  • Kids over the age of 8, or those with a keen interest in art and music. I’ve talked with many parents of younger children who enjoyed the experience immensely, so base your visit on a child’s abilities and passions.
  • Every high school student should make tracks to Van Gogh Alive, and with their parents, too. Harkening back to my own high school and college years, how I wish I had savored such an experience with my mom and dad,as the topics for discussion could be endless: Art and creativity versus mental illness, connectcing to people through art, European culture and mores of the 1800’s, and so much more.

Don’t miss…

  • The musical scores that span a classical range of known and unknown for kids.
  • Art easels and colored pencils at the end of the exhibit to tempt both established artists and those of us who feel inspired to sketch our impressions of the visit.


  • Museum members are free.
  • $20/adult, $17/Alaska resident adult
  • $15/student/military/senior, $12/child over 2
  • Free for kids two and under
  • Note: This is a special exhibit, so even on free and reduced price admission days, a fee will still be assigned for Van Gogh Alive.

Tip: If your kids (or you) haven’t yet researched the life and art of Vincent Van Gogh, do a bit of reading HERE.

Was my son, a staunch anti-art but pro-history sort of kid, appreciative of our visit?

Yes. The sensory experience brought him not necessarily closer to understanding Van Gogh, but drew him in to the concept that art, even post-impressionist modern art, can be represented in a multitude of ways. And that is always good.





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