Site Seeing: The Berkshires
We love New York, we really do, but when gets too hot and humid 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 summer shows.
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). There is an astonishing array of plants to see here year-round, so we recommend starting with a tour: either the self-guided audio (available at the admissions desk) or the daily 11am public tour (now through September 1). Also, make sure to spend some time in the newest display area, Lucy’s Garden, featuring topiary ‘sculptures’ that are simply delightful. In the gallery, the annual Art/Garden exhibit is Shimmering Flowers: Nancy Lorenz’s Lacquer and Bronze Landscapes (June 1 – September 30), using traditional Asian craft techniques to create abstract works. Click here for visit information.
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 summer show lineup includes The Picture Book Odysseys of Peter Sís (June 8 – October 27), Eric Carle Makes a Book (April 6 – August 25), William Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble: A Golden Anniversary (May 4 – December 1) and Ireland’s Eye: Picture Book Views of Ireland (August 13, 2019 – August 2, 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. To compliment these holdings, this season’s exhibition of Renoir: The Body, The Senses (June 8 – September 22) discusses the variety and complexity of painting humans in the nude. Other shows include Ida O’Keefe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow (July 4 – October 14), Art’s Biggest Stage: Collecting the Venice Biennale, 2007-2019 (July 4 – October 14) and Janet Cardiff: The Forty Part Motet (June 8 – September 15). Visiting information is here
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…, Chrissie Hynde: Paintings, and Still I Rise. 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. For the summer, 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
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 summer’s special shows are HAM Faculty Exhibition, Transformed: Paper in Dimension, Aurora Robson: Re:fuse, and Shari Mendelson: Amphorae and Apparitions (all exhibits end September 1). For visitor information, click here
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: Hudson Valley
We have to say it: the Hudson Valley may be the best thing about living in New York City. This area is rich in artistic, historic, and natural assets, all within easy reach via multiple forms of transit. It’s one of our favorite locations to relax and recharge, for a day or weekend, and it’s what we recommend as a day trip to guests who think they’re tired of the city, because they’ve seen everything. These four sites are our top picks and we’re betting they’ll become yours too.
Untermyer Gardens, Yonkers is not a museum or a historic home, but a beautiful and unique public park with a fascinating history. Initially built as part of Greystone, the estate of Samuel Tilden (who, incidentally, has a statue in Riverside Park), the original gardens were developed and expanded by their second owner, Samuel Untermyer, a distinguished lawyer from New York City. In 1946, sixteen acres were donated to the city of Yonkers, with more land acquired in the 1990s. In its current form, Untermyer Gardens is run by a non-profit organization that partners with the city to maintain and restore the grounds. One of the many highlights of this park is the Walled Garden section, a beautiful tribute to historical Indo-Persian gardens, along with design elements from other ancient world civilizations. It’s the perfect spot to spend a hot summer day listening to the sound of rippling water fountains and breathing in the scent of the flowers all around you. Visit information is here
Opus 40 Sculpture Park and Garden, Saugerties, is a site dedicated to the work of Harvey Fite, a noted American sculptor and beloved teacher at Bard College. One of the pioneers of environmental art, he began using a disused quarry as a workshop in the 1930s, expanding and refining his theories and practice. When Opus 40 was opened to the public in 1977, the foundation chose to leave it as close to the original look as possible – as a result, there is a rough and ready feel to the place, as though the workers were on break and returning soon. The site has limited hours (although group tours may be arranged on other days): Thursday through Sunday from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Details and directions are here
Manitoga: The Russel Wright Design Center, Garrison is a unique experience for house-museum visitors. The 75-acre property was owned by Russel Wright, a well-known 20th century industrial designer and on it he built a Japanese-style home with innovative details like a green roof – and this was in the 1960s! In addition, there are two miles of hiking trails that give insight into Wright’s landscaping ideas and linking up to the Appalachian Trail. Manitoga also runs an annual Artist Residency program: this year’s artist, Michele Oka Doner, has an exhibition called Close your Physical Eye (May 10 – November 11), a site specific installation of sculpture and large-scale monoprints. General information is here
Storm King Art Center, New Windsor should be on every art lover’s bucket list. This world-famous museum has 500 acres of land with a variety of terrain, giving artists and sculptures a degree of latitude that few institutions can match. The permanent collection is a who’s who of the international sculpture scene, containing more than 80 artists spanning over 70 years of artistic ideas and movements. Two special exhibitions are on view at this time: Mark Dion: Follies (May 4 – November 11) and Outlooks: Jean Shin (May 4 – November 24). You’ll find a multitude of options for visiting Storm King 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. This summer’s offerings include: The Impressionist’s Eye (until August 18), Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South (until September 2), The Art of Collage and Assemblage (until September 2) and Yoshitoshi: Spirit and Spectacle (until August 18). 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 summer’s exhibits are Pat Steir Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series (until November 17), I Do Not Know What It Is I Am Like: The Art of Bill Viola (until September 15), and Breaking Barriers: Art as Social Justice (until August 8). Admission includes both temporary shows and the permanent collection, details here
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 Marvel Universe of Super Heroes (April 13 – September 2), 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 summer’s shows are Deborah Anzinger: An Unlikely Birth (April 26 – August 11), Colored People Time: Quotidian Pasts (April 26 – August 11), Introducing Tony Conrad: A Retrospective (February 1 – August 11) and Open Video Call (April 26 – August 11). 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 Sonya Clark: Monumental Cloth, the Flag We Should Know (March 29 – August 4), and Bill Viola: The Veiling (June 26 – October 6). Directions and other information are here
Vox Populi isn’t a museum but a contemporary art space run by a rotating collective of artists. Their mission is to give underrepresented artists a place to show works and broaden their audience. Exhibits change monthly, making this a spot worth checking out every time you come to town. For July there are two shows: Vox XV: What Makes That Black? Vox Populi’s 15th Annual Juried Exhibition and Children of Sirius, a group show curated by Malachi Lily (both on view July 5 – August 4). General information is here
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. They’re also known for their special exhibitions, with four on offer this summer: Summer with the Averys [Milton | Sally | March] (May 11 – September 1), Sharks! (April 20 – September 1), iCreate 2019 (June 8 – July 21), and From Butterflies to Battleships: Selections from the Bruce Museum Photography Collection (June 22 – September 1). 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 four summer shows on now, showcasing its ability to embrace the contemporary art scene as well as the historical: Be Seen: Portrait Photography Since Stonewall (June 22 – September 15), Giorgione’s La Vecchia (May 15 – August 4), Tom Burr/MATRIX 182/Hinged Figures (June 6 – September 8), and Design in the American Home 1650 – 1850 (ongoing). 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: Fragile Earth: The Naturalist Impulse in Contemporary Art (June 1 – September 8) 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 summer, there are three exhibits: Harmony Hammond: Material Witness, Five Decades of Art (March 3 – September 15), N. Dash (March 3 – September 15), and Sara Cwynar: Gilded Age (June 9 – November 10). 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 two exhibits on view this summer are Discovering New Beauty: Watercolor Landscapes of the Northeast (April 27 – August 3) and Robert Rauschenberg: Ruminations (June 8 – August 11). 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. Their summer exhibit is A Nation Reflected: Stories in American Glass (March 29 – September 29). 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. There are two special exhibitions currently on view: Rebel with a Cause: The Extravagant Eighties as Envisioned by Eric Fischl (March 16 – July 7), a stunning artistic trip into the recent past and A Mirror to Nature: Sculpture by Marko Remec (ongoing). Visiting information is here
Old Westbury Gardens, Old Westbury is a delightful collection of plants and landscaping art, located about 20 miles from New York City. Besides tours of the gardens (either guided or on your own) there are educational programs and seasonal events for all ages. This summer, the Gardens have a special exhibit called Balance in Nature: Sculptures by Jerzy Jotka Kędziora (June 15 – October 13) featuring works that seem to ignore the laws of gravity. Directions and general information are here
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 summer, the museum will present 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
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 year’s summer exhibition is In A New Light: American Impressionism 1870 – 1940 (May 25 – August 19), which will include works from various regions in the US . 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: Thomas Joshua Cooper: Refuge (May 5 – July 28), Renate Aller: The Space Between Memory and Expectation (March 24 – July 28), and Jean-Luc Mylane: A Matter of Place (March 24 – July 28). In August, the museum will present Abstract Climates: Helen Frankenthaler in Provincetown (August 4 – October 27). Visit and travel information is here