Arts Outside NYC

Site Seeing: The Berkshires

We love New York, we really do, but when we need to get away from it all it’s time to hop in the car and head for the hills – in this case, the Berkshires. Located in Western Massachusetts, this region has a fantastic variety of art experiences in settings ranging from botanic gardens to disused factory buildings. We’ll guide you to several spots ideal for day trips or a long weekend; none more than 3 hours from the city and all featuring interesting winter shows.

John Gordon Gauld, The Archer, 2014. 48 x 30 inches, egg tempera and 24 karat gold on panel

The Berkshire Botanical Garden, encompassing fifteen acres, makes the challenges of growing plants in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5b look easy (after all, this part of Massachusetts can have frost as late as the end of May). At this time of year, the gardens are covered in snow but you can still enjoy visiting the Center House Leonhardt Galleries and the latest exhibit, UNBORN SUN, THE PAINTINGS OF JOHN GORDON GAULD (December 14, 2019 – February 7, 2020), using pigments such as lapis lazuli and madder root to create paintings exploring contemporary issues, often through allegory. There are also seasonal events in December as well as short-term courses on gardening and ecological subjects, information on these is here. To find out more about BBG, click here.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is more than a child-friendly cultural institution promoting art and literacy. The museum has an archive of illustrations and books for artistic and scholarly research, educational programs for children (and adults) as well as sessions for professionals and collaborates with Simmons University and its four graduate programs in Children’s Literature. All this is impressive, to be sure, but what makes this place so rewarding is the happiness that visitors experience on entering the galleries to see original artwork from classic picture books. The museum’s winter show lineup includes The Pursuit of Everything: Maira Kalman’s Books for Children (November 10, 2019 – April 5, 2020), Under the Sea with Eric Carle (September 7, 2019 – May 31, 2020), Ireland’s Eye: Picture Book Views of Ireland (August 13, 2019 – August 2, 2020) and opening in December Now & Then: Contemporary Illustrators and Their Childhood Art (December 14, 2019 – May 10, 2020). Information on all exhibitions can be found here and for details on visiting, click here.

The Clark Art Institute, founded in the mid 1950’s, is a classic American art museum with strong academic and research facilities. Their collection features gems of many periods but the finest works are without a doubt, the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist pictures. Their winter exhibition schedule has two interesting shows: Travels on Paper (November 16, 2019 – February 9, 2020) studying the documentation and artistic interpretations of landscapes and people and Arabesque (December 14, 2019 – March 22, 2020), examining the motif’s influence on Western and Arabic art. Visiting information is here

Annie Lennox, ‘Now I Let You Go…’ Installation view, photo by Kaelan Burkett

MASS MoCA is Massachusetts’ answer to the question: What can the arts do for local communities? This complex of twenty-eight buildings, originally built for industrial usage, house a variety of arts initiatives striking for their originality and modernity, engaging with audiences of every kind and creating a tourism powerhouse other states are using as a template for their communities. There are currently forty-five installations on view and multiple performance works every weekend. Some exhibit highlights include: Annie Lenox: Now I Let You Go… (now until February 2, 2020), and Still I Rise (now until May 2020). Performance schedules are available here and visit information is here.

Site Seeing: New Jersey

Ok, we admit it: we’ve never thought much about New Jersey’s museums. We knew they had some, but who knew where they were or what was in them? So, we thought it might be interesting to take a good look around and see if there was anything noteworthy out there. Turns out there’s a lot of places in Jersey to view art: combined with regional historic sites, museums and sculpture parks focused on education and community involvement or dedicated to contemporary artists working with unusual media. Many locations are only accessible by car, but that’s fine – we’ll just talk a driver friend into taking us (and we promise to pay for gas and tolls)!

Newark Museum is a classic example of a teaching museum that strives to engage and involve the entire community. Founded in 1909, the permanent collection of arts and scientific items are unrivalled in the state, making this the go-to location for all ages and interests. One of the museum’s special strengths is the American art division, displaying art and objects from 1730 to the present. Another is an outstanding collection of Tibetan art, the largest in the Western Hemisphere. Everything in the galleries is beautifully displayed and explained, giving every visitor an informative and entertaining experience. At this time, the Newark Museum has three new shows on long term display: Seeing America: 20th and 21st century, Unexpected Color: A Journey Through Glass, and Birding in Asian Art. For directions and other information, click here

Exterior of Gustav Stickley’s Log House at Craftsman Farms
Photo credit: The Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farms

Stickley Farms is a combination of history and art that seamlessly demonstrates the appeal of the American Arts & Crafts movement of the early 20th century. It’s difficult to imagine now but there was a time when this design ideal was truly radical. Emphasizing natural substances and the maker’s hand was simply not done in furniture production of previous centuries, instead artifice was prized, through genuine or faux materials embellishing the items. During a 75 minute tour of Gustav Stickley’s home, visitors will learn about the design, execution, and history of the site, then stroll the grounds on their own. There is a picnic area available, making this a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon. Besides the main tour, there is also a special exhibit: The American Arts & Crafts Chair: A Message of Honesty & Joy (now until January 5, 2020), with thirteen side chairs from various manufacturers employing the principles of the Arts & Crafts movement. To plan your visit, click here

Hunterdon Art Museum is a hidden gem of New Jersey. Located less than two hours from New York City, this treasured community institution runs an astonishing variety of arts programs for all ages and skill levels. As if that weren’t enough, it also hosts contemporary art exhibits that are completely out of the ordinary, delighting visitors with their creative use of material and subject matter. The winter’s special shows are Cliff Lee: Porcelain Master, Holly Lee: A Jeweler’s Journey, Mia Brownell & Martin Kruck: Skeptical Realism, and the 2019 Members Exhibition (all exhibits end January 5, 2020). Upcoming shows, beginning January 12, 2020, are: Emily Squires Levine: Embracing Color/Polymer Clay (ends March 1), Explorations in Felt (ends April 19) and Gloria Hernandez & Lorraine Kisly: Art + Design (ends April 19). For visitor information, click here

Kang Muxiang, Ignore Me, 2017, renewed steel cable, edition 6, 55 x 70.8 x 59 inches,
Courtesy of the Artist, with Support from the Taiwan Land Development Corporation, photo: George Chevalier

Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve never heard of Grounds For Sculpture – we hadn’t either until recently. But now that we know about this 42-acre sculpture park and arboretum, we can’t stop talking about it to all our friends. It’s a very different experience from other sculpture parks with its assortment of styles and genres, all displayed on an outstanding landscape. But this mix is what make this institution such a success and so popular with visitors from the tri-state and around the world. Add educational, family-friendly, and musical programs, and Grounds For Sculpture becomes a place you’ll want to visit in every season. There are six long-term exhibits on view at this time: Interference Fringe | TALLUR L.N. (ends January 5, 2020), Rebirth: Kang Muxiang (ends June 6, 2020), That’s Worth Celebrating: The Life and Work of the Johnson Family (ends December 31, 2019), Michael Rees: Synthetic Cells (ends January 5, 2020), Harp of David #1 by Dina Wind (ends July 1, 2021), and James Carl: oof (ends January 5, 2020). Full visit information is here

Site Seeing: Philadelphia

Sometimes at ArtsGazing we feel the need to get out of town but not wander too far. We want to keep the conveniences of great food, interesting art, and cool people – you know, everything we have here, but more relaxed. So, when we get in that mood, the only thing to do is go to Philadelphia. Located less than 90 minutes away by train or about 2 hours by car from NYC, the city has everything we need to recharge and enjoy a day or a weekend break. Use our map to start planning some Philly fun for yourself!

Philadelphia Museum of Art is a superlative collection of art and is one of our personal top ten museums of the East Coast. Their consistently excellent exhibitions will keep you returning to this crown jewel of the city season after season, just like us. Some of the nineteen exhibitions on this winter include: Herbert Ferber: Form into Space (until January 5, 2020) and Designs for Different Futures (until March 8, 2020). Directions and general information are here

Barnes Foundation was created by Albert Barnes, who had a unique interest in the educational power of art, creating a progressive environment of learning within his business operations. The collection is world famous for good reason, with an enormous variety of works ranging across centuries and regions around the world (not to mention the stunning amount of Impressionist art). Today, the Barnes offers classes, lectures, and gallery tours for all ages, details are here. This winter’s exhibits are 30 Americans (now until January 12, 2020) and the permanent collection. Early next year, a stunning modern tapestry show Marie Cuttoli: The Modern Thread from Miró to Man Ray (February 23 – May 10, 2020) will be on view. Admission includes both temporary shows and the permanent collection, details here ( To welcome more visitors during the holiday season, the Barnes Foundation has announced special extended hours of 11 am–8 pm from December 26 through 30, 2019, and January 2 and 4, 2020. The Barnes will also be open on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, December 24, and New Year’s Eve, Tuesday, December 31, from 10 am–3 pm.)

Franklin Institute at Night

The Franklin Institute is that rare thing: a museum that educates, enlightens, and entertains everyone who walks through the doors. With their high-energy exhibits Worst Case Scenario: The Exhibition (October 19, 2019 – April 19, 2020) Escape Rooms (ongoing), Now/Next: Batteries (ongoing) and others, you’ll be exercising your body and mind while having a great time. There’s also an observatory for observing the sun in real-time and IMAX theater showing three different films with scientific themes. Plan for your exciting visit here

Institute of Contemporary Art University of Pennsylvania is a teaching museum like no other, with a commitment to creating space for dialogue on current issues and concerns as expressed in artworks. They also have a stellar reputation for spotting up-and-coming artists, so a visit here is a must. This winter’s shows include Colored People Time: Banal Presents (now through December 22) and Michelle Lopez: Ballast & Barricades (now through May 10, 2020), among others. More information about ICA is here.

The Fabric Workshop and Museum is the kind of institution we would expect to see in Europe or Asia, locations well known for their interest in textile art and craft. Founded in the 1970s, the museum brought much needed attention to this distinctive creative form, along with educational programs that encourage people of all ages to explore textile and other materials in a professional studio environment. Nowadays, the focus is on contemporary artwork, regardless of the medium used, as well as supporting artists through its Artist-in-Residence program. FWM’s current exhibits are Jacolby Satterwhite: Room for Living (now through January 19, 2020) and Echos and Reverberations (now through March 15, 2020). Directions and other information are here

Untitled by Amy Sherald, Photo by Steve Weinik for Mural Arts Philadelphia

Mural Arts Philadelphia has been bringing art to Philadelphia residents for more than 30 years. It originally began as a city program to combat graffiti but its director, Jane Golden, decided that encouraging people to turn their graffiti into art projects for communities around the city was a far more effective and socially aware approach. Today, Mural Arts supports between 60-100 projects a year, with artists, communities, and sponsors all working towards the goals of education in art, civic engagement, and mental health issues. There are a variety of viewing tour options, from do-it-yourself to several methods of transit (cost of ticket varies), with a length of 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Site Seeing: Connecticut

Even though ArtsGazing loves the NYC arts scene, there are times when it’s a good idea to step away and see what’s happening in other places. One of our favorite weekend getaways is the great state of Connecticut. Besides the fantastic shoreline and the delicious food that goes with it, there are wonderful museums and lush landscapes that visitors adore year-round. We always start our trip by using the Connecticut Art Trail, a partnership between museums and historic sites to promote cultural treasures of the state. Through an arts passport that provides a one-day admission to twenty museums located in five counties – all for only $25 – we can enjoy ourselves without spending a fortune. Begin planning your own art trail using our map or visit the Metro-North or Amtrak websites for travel information.

The Bruce Museum is a unique combination of art and science. Located in Greenwich, this excellent museum has a well-balanced permanent collection of 19th and 20th century items ranging from art to ethnographic materials from North America. In addition, their scientific holdings include over 4,000 vertebrate and invertebrate specimens, along with more than 1,500 mineral samples. The current special exhibit is Collecting Reimagined: A 2D Curiosity Cabinet (December 14, 2019 – March 29, 2020). In February of next year, two more exhibits will open: Under the Skin (February 1 – July 19, 2020), and On The Edge of The World: Masterworks by Laurits Andersen Ring from SMK – The National Gallery of Denmark (February 1 – May 24, 2020). Directions to The Bruce Museum are here.

The Wadsworth Atheneum is simply a beautiful collection of art. This treasured institution in Hartford inspires everyone from schoolkids to senior citizens with over 45,000 pieces spanning 5,000 years of creative endeavor. Some prized items on permanent display include Hudson River School paintings, the Lifar collection of Ballet Russes paintings and drawings, and a selection of art works collected by J. Pierpont Morgan. The Wadsworth has several exhibits on this winter, showcasing its ability to embrace the contemporary art scene as well as the historical: Afrocosmologies: American Reflections (October 19, 2019 – January 20, 2020, The Bauhaus Spirit at the Wadsworth Atheneum (now through May 17, 2020), Design in the American Home 1650 – 1850 (ongoing) and in late February next year, Savor: A Revolution in Food Culture (February 29 – May 25, 2020). Visit information to the Wadsworth Atheneum is here.

The Florence Griswold Museum’s mission is two-fold: to be a museum of American Impressionism and to show how the artists lived and worked in this summer colony of Old Lyme. Through tours and gallery spaces, visitors learn how the region was discovered, view paintings, and walk through the landscapes that inspired the works. There are two current exhibitions on at this time: Nothing More American: Immigration, Sanctuary, and Community an Exhibition by Matthew Leifheit and An American Place: The Art Colony at Old Lyme (ongoing). Directions to the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme are here.

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield is one of the most beautiful spaces for contemporary art we’ve ever visited. With its simple layout of gallery spaces, screening room, and a learning area, as well as ample natural light, every exhibit looks better here than just about anywhere back in NYC. For the winter, there are three exhibits: Eva LeWitt: Untitled (Mesh A-J) (October 6, 2019 – April 5, 2020), Weather Report (October 6, 2019 – March 29, 2020), and Zoë Sheehan Saldaña: There Must Be Some Way Out of Here (November 24, 2019 – May 17, 2020). Visit information to The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art is here.

Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London is an excellent example of a regional institution fully engaged with its community. Children and adults attend a wide variety of programs: art classes, concerts, gallery tours, lectures, and exhibitions, all focused on bringing art into daily life. The permanent collection ranges from the ancient world to the present, there are also displays for art influenced by the southern Connecticut area. The three exhibits on view this winter are LEGENDS: the Sports Photography of Walter Iooss (now through January 12, 2020), Brought to Light: European Paintings from the Collection (now through September 20, 2020) Grand Menagerie: Animals in Art! (now through January 26, 2020). In addition, the museum hosts family-friendly events, workshops, and talks on aspects of the exhibits and collections – you can find details here. Directions to the Lyman Allyn Art Museum are here.

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven (not to be confused with the Yale Center for British Art) houses a spectacular collection of art representing cultures and time periods from all around the world. As if that weren’t enough of a draw, admission is free so there’s no reason not to stop in and look around. There are several exhibits available this winter, among them Place, Nations, Generations, Beings: 200 Years of Indigenous North American Art (November 1, 2019 – June 21, 2020), Ceremonial Dress from Southwest China: The Ann B. Goodman Collection (September 6, 2019 – January 5, 2020) and William Bailey: Looking through Time (September 6, 2019 – January 5, 2020). In January, the gallery will have the powerful exhibit, Reckoning with ‘The Incident’: John Wilson’s Studies for a Lynching Mural (January 17 – May 10, 2020) Visit information is here.

Site Seeing: Long Island

When people think about Long Island, they tend to think about the outdoors: beaches, the ocean, parks, wineries – even the best mall on the Island is an outdoor one. But when ArtsGazing thinks of Long Island what springs to mind are the artists’ colonies of the East End and North Fork, the sculpture gardens of Nassau and Suffolk counties, and the extraordinary community involvement of the museums here. Join the locals and get inspired by the many arts programs on offer with our map to help you plan a great trip.

Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, located on the old Frick estate, is known for specializing in 19th and 20th century American and European art as well as having a beautiful garden, well-marked nature trails, and an excellent sampling of modern sculpture on display. This winter the museum presents two special exhibitions: Picture This! The Art of Children’s Books (through January 12, 2020) and The Seasons (through March 1, 2020). There are also many programs and events of interest for children and adults, more details available here. Visiting information is here

Grumman Lunar Module LM-13, Photo Credit: Cradle of Aviation Museum

Cradle of Aviation Museum, Garden City, is not strictly an art museum but when you consider that for centuries artists have been fascinated by the science and beauty of flight, it makes sense to include it here. Since the earliest days of aviation, Long Island has been a hub for those interested in flying and aircraft, and the technical knowledge needed for both. When the US government decided to fund flight missions to space, it turned to the many engineers, scientists, and manufacturing technicians based here to develop effective and safe aircraft for the astronauts. This year, the museum presents Countdown to Apollo at 50, a series of events and an exhibit highlighting Long Island’s role in the success of this country’s space program. Visit and admission information is here

David Burliuk, Fall Flowers in a Watering Can, 1949, Oil on Canvas, Heckscher Museum of Art

Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington charms visitors with its permanent collection ranging from German Renaissance to the present day. There is also an excellent group of European and American Modernism works on view, an unexpected pleasure in a regional museum. This winter’s exhibition is Locally Sourced: Collecting Long Island Artists (until March 15, 2020), a survey of artists who lived, worked or visited Long Island. General information is here

Parrish Art Museum, Southampton is an interesting example of a small museum with big accomplishments. The holdings focus on 19th through 21st century American art, but also reflect the unique relationship between artists and the East End of Long Island. The current offering of special exhibitions features three photographers exploring various landscapes: Artists Choose Artists 2019 (until February 23, 2020), Maya Lin: Bay, Pond & Harbor (Long Island Triptych) (until January 26, 2020), and What We See, How We See (until April 2021). There is also an extensive selection of programs and events, learn more here. Visit and travel information is here