Their goal was to raise money for the Musée en Herbe (Budding Museum). Tucked in the First Arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Louvre, the Musée en Herbe’s mission is to bring art and culture to children and those typically excluded from the art world.
Founded more than 40 years ago, the 6,400-square-foot space provides exhibit-related activities for those “between the ages of 3 and 103.”
“We’re a little alien in the world of art,” said Sylvie Girardet, the museum’s director. She was a wide-eyed graduate in art history and archaeology when she created the museum with two friends. At the time, she had been shocked to learn that the majority of the French population did not visit museums (In 2014, 61 percent had not been to a museum once in that year, according to one report).
“Childhood is when a lot of core values are formed,” said Ms. Girardet, 67. “We thought that if we initiated children into the world of art, then as future adults they wouldn’t have this mental block.”
The current exhibition (through Sept. 9), “The Secrets of the Studio: From Monet to Ai Weiwei,” showcases the work of Damian Elwes, who paints the studios of famous artists. Visitors, equipped with a mini magnifying glass and a Sherlock Holmes-style hat, set out on a mission to find Mr. Elwes’s “missing palette.”
Children are encouraged to study the paintings to see if they can uncover which artist “stole” the palette. At the end of the exhibition, once they have found the culprit, they are given a tube of paint.
“Young parents who came to visit the museum when they were little now come back with their children,” Ms. Girardet said as she watched schoolchildren crowd around the tables in the museum’s atelier. “It’s touching; it means they remember and they keep fond memories of their time here.”
Every year, she said, the nonprofit museum “struggles to find a budget for the year ahead.” The annual budget is around €1 million. About half comes from admissions; grants from City Hall make up a fifth of the budget, and the rest is acquired through sponsors.
Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre, 42, the director of the Icart School of Arts and a fan of the philosophy behind the Musée en Herbe, suggested having his students organize an auction for the museum.
“Three years ago, I decided I wanted the students to really experience how the art market works,” Mr. Laugero-Lasserre said at the exhibition before the auction. “Then I thought, why not raise money for a good cause? The Musée en Herbe is like a paradise for children, open to everyone and breaking social barriers.”
In 2017, the first edition of Street for Kids raised just over €74,000. With this extra funding, the museum was not only able to continue to educate children and families but also to fund its program Récrés du Musée (Break Time in the Museum). This included working with nongovernmental organizations accompanying families from disadvantaged backgrounds on free tours of the museum.
This year, Ms. Girardet announced that the students raised €90,750; she was greeted with loud cheering and clapping. The museum will use part of the funds for its next exhibition on the monsters of Japanese manga comic books and their influence on contemporary artists in Japan.
Charley Uzzell Edwards, a street artist known as Pure Evil who is based in London, donated two original pieces. One sold for €4,000, and the other, painted live at the auction, sold for €3,000.
“It’s awesome that they have [the Musée en Herbe] set up to cater to children and get them inspired,” he said. “I think for a lot of kids, street art is their art.”
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