On Inspiration: Art Museums and Agape Love

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Three days. Three cities. Three art museums. Three special exhibits. 300,000 shiny ideas.

When I travel, I love to visit art museums. And when I say love, I mean equal parts deep, intellectual excitement and exuberant, jump-up-and-down-and-clap-your-hands love. 

Detail from "America Windows" by Marc Chagall
Detail from Marc Chagall’s “America Windows” at the Art Institute of Chicago. This piece is so inspiring it makes me want to rip off my clothes, put on my splattered studio gear, and paint!

Art and community service restore me…if that’s not inspiration, I don’t know what is.

Art museums inform both my writing and my painting, but more than anything, they amplify my agape love. Agape is a beautifully nuanced Greek word that means (in this context) the love of humanity. The news has been heart-breaking, breath-taking, and heavy lately. A recent combination of volunteering and visiting art museums has reminded me of all the soulful, big-hearted, genuinely good people in this world and all the visionary creators of past and present whose artistic voices resonate deep, in healing and inspiring ways.


When I go to a museum (whether it be one I’ve visited a thousand times or one I’ve just discovered) I like to set a theme before I go.

In this way, I’m more likely to explore pieces in detail and really see them (really, really see them). I saw a statistic at an art museum recently that said “patrons spend an average of 17 seconds with a work of art before moving on.” Wow – 17 seconds. Setting a theme changes the time you spend with the artwork…even pieces you’ve seen many times before will have something new to teach you. Trust me – it will enhance the experience for you and your family and friends. It makes each visit a bit of a scavenger hunt and is guaranteed to leave you with a billion-zillion ideas. Why not make it a new tradition?

Here are some themes to consider:

  • Pick a color – cobalt blue, turquoise, gold, orange…
  • Pick a shape – circles, lines, stars, triangles…
  • Pick a detail – lace, hair styles, leaves, birds, insects, gestures, facial expressions, marble, brush strokes, sunlight, jewelry, wings…
Woman Inspecting Fabric Details on a Painting
My Mom, Rosie Sabo, is a Quilter and Fabric Artist. She enjoys exploring art museums for fabric details.

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Man Enjoying the Human Form while looking at a painting in an art museum.
My Dad, Richard Sabo, enjoys exploring the variety of human figures depicted in paintings and sculptures.

Postcards From The Muse subscribers on how art museums inspire them:

“I enjoy watching people of all kinds and all ages enjoy art. Sometimes in my studio, I have a hard time remembering that it’s a human trait to find meaning, beauty, silliness, solace, and deep thoughts in art. Sometimes it feels like it only means something to me. A trip to the museum reminds me that there is an audience, reaction, and interpretation for every creation (even the ones I make).” – Erin (MO)

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“I love all the families at my local¬†museum. It’s wonderful to see one generation pass on a love for art to the next generation. It makes me feel like I’m a part of a big community of art lovers and it helps me to feel more connected and less lonely.” -Ashley (IN)

Click here to get in on the conversation – visit the website and leave a comment about how art museums inspire you!

Join me in art-making and loving-kindness.

I hope that you find some agape in your art, in other’s art, and in your community. I know humanity can be kind, peaceful, and creative instead of cruel, aggressive, and destructive. I know we can make the world a better place: in our studios, in our neighborhoods, with loving-kindness, and with respect for diversity and the inherent worth and dignity of all humans and all of earth’s creatures.

Together, we can literally create a better world. Creative action (in your studio and in your community) is the answer. Are you with me?

Next week’s post will focus on how finding a “sit spot” at a museum (and in nature) can lead to a more fruitful creative practice.

In joy,

Melinda Eliza

Artist and Creativity Catalyst


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