Getting MORE Out of Museums in the Big Apple

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Every Friday afternoon, I walk by the MOMA to see a huge line snaking around the building of what appears to be (mostly European) tourists waiting to get in for Free Friday afternoons.  This got me thinking…when I was in Paris earlier this summer, the museum wasn’t dominated just by Americans…in fact, it seemed that a good portion of the patrons were French.

1. Instead of making the rounds, focus on one piece of art that really inspires you.

In the NY Times article “The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum”, it states: “When you go to the library,” said James O. Pawelski, the director of education for the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, “you don’t walk along the shelves looking at the spines of the books and on your way out tweet to your friends, ‘I read 100 books today!’”.  Indeed, instead of perusing art in quantity, focus on really taking in one piece that speaks to you…taking the time to really look at it, study it, learn the history of it, and become somewhat of an expert on that particular piece.

2. Curate your museum experience to your interests.

If you are really into a particular subject, say fashion or music or dogs, why not focus your visit on JUST those pieces of art that align?  Museums are filled with passionate educators and volunteers at the Help Desks who would be more than happy to point you in the right direction of pieces that correspond with your passion, and you can spend your precious time in front of those works of art rather than being overwhelmed with an entire museum.

3. Take a FREE tour.

Yes, yes, I know I’m always encouraging you guys to jump on a tour.  But really…so much fascinating information, guys!  The beautiful thing about most NYC museums is they offer tours to fit your personal style…from free docent led tours focusing on a specific theme or exhibit, to audio/cell phone/iPod tours that let you navigate areas of interests solo, there’s plenty of options for every kind of personality.

4. Treat your visit as a “Mall Walk”.

I know some artsy folks are totally shaking their heads at me on this one, but hear me out!  Walking is one form of exercise I get in every single day…and sometimes NYC weather conditions just aren’t agreeable to a long walk in Central Park (rain, sleet, and extreme heat, I’m talking to you!)  Since we don’t have the super-size malls that exist in a lot of suburbs, why not take advantage of the large museums for a power stroll?  You can check ahead of time here to see which museums are free on which days, put on your comfy walking shoes, grab your headphones, and get a nice walk in while still taking in a bit of culture.  Win/win, NYC!

5. Stalk a particular artist’s work, both in and out of the museum.

The great thing about visiting museums in this day in age is you can really educate yourself about the artist of interest ahead of time.  If Andy Warhol is fascinating to you, why not watch one of the many movies/documentaries available about his life on Netflix, check out biographies for free via the public library, do some pre-visit Google searching on him during your lunch break…you get the idea.  Then, by the time you head to see his pieces on display at the museum, you’ll already feel a deeper, more personal connection with the man behind the art…(and can also sound like quite the expert with whoever you may be touring the museum with!)

Would love to know…what are tips/tricks you use when visiting museums?  Share below!

Photo credit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/arts/design/15museum.html?_r=0 

Jessica Tiare Bowen
Jessica Tiare Bowen lives in the juicy Big Apple with her adorable pink-nosed chihuahua, Gillman. He's the inspiration for her first published children's book, "Park Avenue Pound Puppy." The book is the combined result of her two greatest passions: pooches and penning stories.

Her passions include art, urban hikes through Manhattan, drinking coffee with 3 creams and 6 sugars, making extremely detailed itineraries and traveling to far away places, singing along to Broadway shows, Netflix movie nights, discovering incredible treasures at Goodwill and thrift stores, and listening to stories from little people under 7 and big people over 70.

She started her career as New York City Teaching Fellow, teaching elementary school and theater arts at a special education school in the South Bronx for 6 years. She is now a Special Education School Improvement Specialist working in public schools throughout New York City. She is the Editor-In-Chief of the online New York City travel magazine, Used York City. The magazine focuses on finding the best of New York...as used by New Yorkers. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and an ASPCA Ambassador.
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