You might be surprised to learn that my family, children included, like visiting art museums. Art museums have come a long way from just “silently standing and looking at paintings some old guy or girl made a million years ago.” Today, so many art museums are finding new ways to engage children and welcome families into their galleries. We wrote about the many benefits of taking children to art museums last year in this post featuring the Guggenheim in New York City. A huge bonus? Most of these museums, and other art museums, offer FREE admission for children, usually ages 16 and under.
This week, in our third installment of virtual tours (read about National Parks offering virtual tours here and children’s museums/zoos/aquariums offering online activities here), we’re sharing some of our favorite art museums and ways you can appreciate art at home:
1. Guggenheim in New York City: The Guggenheim was one of the first art museums we visited with our children. We were impressed by the art kits they loan to children and by the scavenger hunt type activities they asked children to complete. Online, the Guggenheim is offering several For Families, From Home activities that mirror what is traditionally offered in person at the museum. There are Virtual Stroller Tours for babies, Little Guggs for the toddler set, and Sketch with Jeff for older kids.
Find the index for the programs here
Read about our adventures at the Guggenheim and travel tips here
2. Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts: It seems like forever, but it was only two months ago that we were in Boston exploring some of the dozens of exhibits at MFA. Our favorites include the ship models, furniture exhibits, and musical instruments galleries- yes, art museums have more than just traditional paintings! Online, the museum has a unique section on its YouTube Channel: a series of videos featuring some of the 1,300 musical instruments that are part of the museum’s collection. Short film clips feature musicians playing and explaining parts of each instrument. Kids might like guessing what “family” the instrument belongs to.
Find the link for the YouTube index here
Read about our adventures at the Museum of Fine Arts and travel tips here
3. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts: We visited this museum on the same day we explore the MFA. It’s unique in that a majority of the art is displayed throughout the three story, early 20th century home of Gardner and her husband. The center courtyard transports visitors to another world and the gardens are open in season for exploring. Online, middle school kids will enjoy learning about the life and travels of Gardner, the gardens, and the infamous theft of over a dozen priceless pieces of art from the museum in 1990.
Find the link for the historical background here.
Read about our adventures at the Gardner Museum and travel tips here
4. Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester, Massachusetts: Taking a free, docent led tour is the best way for families to explore this art museum. Knowledgeable, friendly staff are great with children and point out unique, fun trivia that will keep kids engaged for a while. There is also an Activity Center that features a book nook and plenty of arts and crafts. Online, check out the Education part of the museum’s website. There is a virtual tour of the Davis House, Timeship (an online magazine geared towards kids) and CAM is…Creative, which features various craft activities.
Find the link for EducationI activities and tours here
Read our City Guide to Gloucester and travel tips here (Cape Ann Museum is #5)
5. Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts: This museum has so much light and open space, which is unusual for many art museums. There are several rotating exhibits, but visitors can count on Art and Nature Center for Children and Cleopatra’s Barge, the main salon of America’s first private ocean yacht built in Salem in 1816, to engage children. Check out the museum’s YouTube channel for weekly PEM Pals episodes, which are focused on the toddler crew. Older kids will want to check out the online museum gift shop. There is a large variety of games and puzzles related to art work displayed in the museum kids will like.
Find the link for the PEMPals episodes here and the museum gift shop here
Read about our adventures at the Peabody Essex Museum here and our City Guide to Salem here.
6. RISD Art Museum in Providence, Rhode Island: Located on the campus of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the museum features Egyptian, Ancient Greek and Roman art; 18th and 19th century American art; prints, drawings, and photography; and an entire floor devoted to student work. There is also a two level outdoor garden. On Zoom each Saturday in May the museum is offering Family See and Sketch. The sessions promise to include “close examination, discussion, and hands-on making using common household materials. Each session focuses on a different artwork.”
Find the index link for Family See and Sketch here
Read about our adventures at the RISD Museum and travel tips here (#3)
7. Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: This museum (yes, the one with the famous “Rocky” stairs featured in the Rocky film) is one of the oldest art museums in the country. There are over 200 galleries, including art from the very popular Ming Dynasty and the famous 13 foot gilded statue of the goddess Diana. Online, the museum has curated a collection of talks, performances, and object stories. Budding writers might be more engaged in the Looking to Write, Writing to Look program which includes 25 works from the museum’s collection and writing prompts and activities.
Find the link for Educational Resources here and the Looking to Write program here.
Read our City Guide to Philadelphia, which includes the Philadelphia Museum of Art here (#18)
8. The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Dr Albert C. Barnes amassed a collection of over 1500 paintings (including Renoirs, Cezannes, Matiises, Picassos, and van Coghs) as well as metal works, ceramics, sculptures, and furniture. The current museum location opened less than a decade ago, and allows guests to see the art up close (watch little ones!). On YouTube, the Barnes Takeout offers 8-12 minute film clips of staff sharing background information, historical context, and unique trivia about specific pieces in the collection. Guests can search through almost three dozen episodes by choosing a thumbnail photo of each piece of art. Kids will enjoy the Family Art Time weekly sessions that begin this week.
Find the link for Barnes Takeout here and Family Art Time here.
Read our City Guide to Philadelphia, which includes The Barnes Foundation here (#14)
9. Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum in Washington, DC: We always stop by this spot when we’re in DC- it’s free to visit, has a beautiful Courtyard (kids can get their feet wet in the water scrims), and has hundreds of portraits of recognizable people (presidents, athletes, actors, scientists). On Facebook, there are weekly storytime sessions Wednesday at 11am and Open Studio with artists. Older teens might enjoy Virtual Writing Hour on Tuesday evenings.
Find the Facebook Writing Hour link here, storytime links here, and index of Open Studio sessions here.
Read about our adventures at the museum here and some of our other favorite spots in Washington DC here.
10. We have not visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in several years- we actually had our children’s first visit planned for this spring and had to cancel it. We know we’ll return when it’s safe to visit and look forward to exploring some of the 200+ galleries and viewing some of the 2+ MILLION pieces of art in the collection. **I think we’ll need a few trips. For now, we might check out the Storytime sessions offered each Thursday on Facebook and YouTube, although the sessions are recommended for younger children. My children were excited to check out the Art at Home section of the website because it will allow them to choose what type of art, or time period, they want to study. Teenage fashionistas might interested in the past coverage of the famous Met Gala.
Find the link to the YouTube index of Storytimes here and Art at Home index here.