One of the most effective ways to develop consciousness is through intergenerational connection. Above all, the act of spending time with someone of a different age group offers fresh perspective. In conclusion, we re-experience an innocence from which we can grow and learn.
On a cold, beautiful, November Sunday in Gateshead, I have the pleasure of spending time with my Granddaughter. I am 50, she is 8, and our time spent together is one of mutual joy and happiness. There is nothing more satisfying than chatting excitedly about our next adventure over a cuppa in the local coffee shop.
Our intergenerational connection centres on finding something we can both enjoy.
We love to visit the cinema to see the latest PG films together.
We love to go and bounce around at children's indoor play areas.
But the most important factor for both of us is simply enjoying each others company.
Being together provides space for learning from each other, which we both gain a huge amount of enjoyment from.
Simple innocence around road safety
This November day we settled on a walk down to the quayside to see what was happening. As we walked across the busy roads we reinforced our understanding of the safest ways to cross. We talked about stopping at the crossings, observing the red lights and waiting for the green man to allow us safe passage. We even affected some other walkers, who began waiting patiently with us at the lights. They looked at my granddaughter saying they would normally have chanced the crossing before the lights changed. However, wishing to set a good example for her, they waited in order to illustrate the importance of road safety.
It was nice to know we had influenced the return of innocence to others in such a simple way. So much so, It prompted a quick discussion about the art of slowing down in life. In short, we are in such a rush to get to places, we forget the joy of taking time to be together. After that, the couple we met crossing the busy road smiled in agreement with our observations. In addition, they walked on from us hand in hand much slower than they had when approaching the crossing.
Intergenerational connection through art and design
You can walk straight through the Sage and see collections of musicians standing chatting in the foyer. We wondered at the instruments in their different size cases, guessing what each one housed. Glancing up and around we marvelled at the shape of the building we stood in. I commented how it looked like a slug with it's many curves. To which my younger companion laughed, saying it was more like a snail with the curves being part of its shell. We continued on, taking time to look around the shop as we made our way through.
As you look out towards the waterfront from The Sage, the old Baltic flour mill greets you. From it's prominent position on the south bank of the River Tyne it dominates the skyline. Baltic is now the centre for contemporary art, making it the UK's largest dedicated art institution.
As we made our way down the many steps leading away from the Sage, we felt excited to explore this wonderful building. With four floors of art and design to get through, we hurried past the shop to begin our ascent.
Seeing through illusion
Choosing to enjoy the glass panelled lift last, we stepped onto the stairs. As we did, my granddaughter let out a gasp of awe. Looking down over the railing, she saw an endless flight of steps stretching away from her. "Look Nanny, it goes down so far" she exclaimed in excitement. Her innocent elation was so infectious I couldn't help telling her to look up.
As we slowly climbed the stairs we debated what could account for the illusion she was seeing. I didn't offer an explanation, instead I asked questions about reflection as we walked. In doing so, she came to the ultimate conclusion that the designer was very clever. It was mesmerising to watch her cogs and wheels of reason go around as she began to understand.
Intergenerational connection with a child's eye view
Each floor represented a different concept of artistic expression. For instance, on floor 1 we were treated to a collection of family portraits by Joy Labinjo. Skipping towards certain pictures, I was aware that some grasped my granddaughters attention more than others. When I questioned her interest, she began explaining the detail of the faces she was seeing. Firstly, she was drawn to the shapes used to construct the faces. Secondly, she was interested in the bold, rich colours the artist had chosen. Thirdly, and most importantly, she enjoyed the different colour combinations in the overall picture.
As we moved through the other floors, she offered, without prompting, her impression of everything she was encountering. Her understanding of Judy Chicago's work shook me to the core. In addition to being engrossed by The Birth Project, the empathy she displayed with A Meditation on Death and Extinction was astounding. Her initial reaction to pictures of her favourite animals changed as she grasped the deeper meaning. After that, our discussion centred on mans destruction of our planet and the need for us to actively protect nature.
A loving conclusion to an intergenerational connection
We continued through the Baltic, with my granddaughter giving her innocent opinion on every artistic impression she came across. As such, My joy at spending time together became heightened through the sharing of her 8 year old wisdom. To encounter the development of ideas in one so young provided an inspiration I rarely experience in those of my own years. In addition, I received the valuable lesson of returning to the innocence of a child's-eye view. With all the wonder, awe, excitement, and questioning, that comes with it.
When you are passing Gateshead quayside, take the time to visit Baltic and The Sage. Both buildings are beautiful in their own right. However, the treasures they house are not to be missed, as is the chance to explore them with child-like eyes. Both myself, and my granddaughter highly recommend them to people of all ages. In closing I must point out something you should always remember, intergenerational connection allows us to reconnect with our innocence. In other words, through engagement with a youthful family member, In this case a grandmother and grandchild, you grow wiser.