Visiting an art gallery with a baby or toddler is not easy.
So when Hilary Letwin, an academic art historian who was pregnant and new to the Lower Mainland, looked at local parent and baby groups a year ago, she saw an opportunity. She and her husband, who's also an art historian, launched Culture Babes with the goal of helping parents with babies visit a new art exhibition almost every month.
"There are so many wonderful things out there for new parents, but little that has any sort of mental stimulation," said the resident of Port Moody who's originally from San Francisco. "A lot of it is really geared towards the babies and the toddlers and I wanted to create something that would enable the parents to really devote a little time to themselves, with baby in tow."
Letwin worried about visiting quiet galleries with a baby. "Most of our museum exhibition groups tend to be about 15 to 20 adults and so there's something a little bit perhaps, I don't want to say foreboding about a group of parents, but we certainly don't get the dirty glances or comments that you would maybe expect to get if you went into a hushed museum environment," she said.
Letwin schedules gallery visits, specifically to new exhibits, at opening time, if not earlier, to ease the way for parents and babies. Most visits start at 9 a.m. on weekday mornings and they always include a 45-minute tour with a guide or the curator pointing out the key works.
"It's nice to have things easily packaged when your attention span tends to be a little bit shorter because you're probably thinking about what your kid is doing or what you're going to have for dinner that night," she said. She concedes the subsequent gatherings over coffee last even longer.
Letwin also organizes walking tours of public art in downtown Vancouver and classical music concerts for families at the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Burnaby in winter and spring.
The musicians are usually parents of young children so they're prepared for the "slightly noisier" audience members that might want to wander up and stare at their technique and instruments.
Letwin boasts 500 parents on her email list. She advertises Culture Babes for parents and children under age five, but says the average age of children in tow is 18 months.
Her husband Bradley attends every month."He's always very happy to see another dad along," she said. "For more of our events we usually have two or three men."
Ticket prices range from $10 to $30 and children are always free. Letwin sells Culture Babes gift certificates.
Culture Babes will tour the Visions of Enlightenment: Buddhist Art exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology at 10 a.m., Sept. 5. Tickets are $25 for adults.
Parents and children will tour the Burnaby Art Gallery for a cost of $10 per adult in October. "There's always the added bonus of the kids getting a little something, learning about museum etiquette, learning about concert etiquette, just getting visually excited by something they see," Letwin said.
For more information, see culturebabes.ca.