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Family Activities for The Cathedral (Quick Tip)

Family Activities for Auguste Rodin’s The Cathedral

By Courtney Klemens, Manager of Family Programs, and Emily Perreault, Pre-K Programs Educator


Collage of hands

Family hand portrait. By bringing together two right hands in one sculpture, Rodin makes us consider the relationship between the two figures. Make art that can tell the story of your family relationship, whether your family members live in one place or in separate locations. Try one or all of the ideas here:  

  • Trace each family member’s hand on one piece of paper, using a new color for each person and overlapping the outlines slightly.  
  • Make a digital collage of photographs you take of each family member’s hand. Put your camera on black-and-white mode, and zoom in closely so you can capture details of the skin. Ask family members who don’t live with you to send their own photo to be included in the collage! Try a free photo editing tool like Pixlr to adjust colors, add filters, or overlap your photos. 
  • Cover the palm and fingers of each family member’s hands with slightly watered-down paint, and take turns pressing your hands on one piece of paper to make a handprint portrait. When the paint dries, use a marker or pen to add details or sign names under each handprint.  

Negative space collage of three photographs where the images of people have become white silhoettes
Negative space collage. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke said “the role of air had always been extremely important” in Rodin’s sculptures; that is, the shape of the sculptures we see is just as important as the empty spaces between them. Look closely at the negative space in The Cathedral. What do you notice? Make a collage inspired by the empty spaces you’re noticing. Find images in a magazine or art books that interest you, and carefully cut out parts of the image with scissors. Paste the new images you’ve altered on a larger piece of paper to bring them together. You can add details like lines or patterns with a marker, colored pencil, or pen.  

Collage of hands creating shadow art in black and white photographs

Photographs © 2020 belchonock/ 

Shadow art. By making a larger-than-life sculpture of two hands, Rodin turns simple body parts into a meaningful work of art that makes us focus on their shape and the emotions they convey. Try this transformation by creating poses in shadow! Hang a sheet or piece of fabric to make your performance space. Then, shine a bright light behind the sheet to create your screen. Position yourself on one side of the screen and hold your hands in different poses to show different emotions. Can you make a happy pose? Make your hands show power or surprise?  

Gratitude Journal

Gratitude sketchbook. Rodin’s sculpture was renamed The Cathedral after he wrote Cathedrals of France, which brought together thoughts and sketches of Gothic cathedrals he visited throughout his long life. In it he wrote: “Before I myself disappear, I wish at least to have told my admiration for the cathedrals. I wish to pay them my debt of gratitude, I, who owe them so much happiness!” What brings you happiness? What objects, people, or places do you admire most? Create a drawing every day for one week of something you’re grateful for. Find a quiet space to sketch, and set a timer for 30 minutes. You can create all seven drawings on one paper, or start a new page for each drawing. At the end of the week, share your drawings with a friend or family member and tell them about what you’ve drawn.  


  • A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat HanhThis book offers a beautifully simple meditation that kids and adults can practice together. This exercise connects with the quiet and meditative quality of the hands iThe Cathedral. Watch this video inspired by the book 
  • Gracias, Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrated by John ParraA bilingual story about giving thanks for simple pleasures like the sun, laughter, and friendship. Enjoy a read-aloud video in English and Spanish here 
  • Thank you, Omu! by Oge Moraillustrated by LaQuita JamesThe delicious smell of Omu’s red stew draws people to her apartment door. Each time she greets someone new from her community, she invites them to share her food. At the end of the day, Omu’s pot is empty but her generosity is repaidRead the e-book free with your North Carolina library card here