saturday at moma, or the day the kids out museumed us

March 5, 2013 |  Category:   art + design life nyc outings






In keeping up with our resolution to see more art this year, I wanted to spend last Saturday at one of the major museums. When I brought up MoMA with the girls, I was surprised to hear that neither of them really remembered which museum I was referring to. Had it really been that long? I remember chaperoning a field trip during preschool 2 years ago, but maybe that really was the last time. Once we got to MoMA, each of them remembered certain things like the sculpture garden and the helicopter suspended from the ceiling, but this visit really was a new experience for them and one where Claudine has been asking to go back soon ever since.


The Inventing Abstraction Show, which runs through April 15th, really is worth a visit (no photography allowed at the show so the photos here are from other exhibits). I do have to admit that years of art history study in high school and college, particularly the ones where weekly museum classes were mandatory, may have desensitized me to artwork from certain periods. I think because the association with certain artists and works were closely tied with school and curriculum, I was never too interested in seeing another Monet or Kandinsky. I think a certain amount of distance cures that because the Abstraction show which focuses on art and musical works produced in a 15 year period from 1910-1925 was truly fantastic. I was particularly enamored with the Malevich paintings, whose work I had always loved, but it’s been quite a number of years since I’ve seen his graphic paintings up close. As in many cases with abstract artworks, print or web reproductions don’t really serve the works justice.

Mark was thrilled because the show drew the connections between some of the early 20th century composers to the artists of this era. Original scores of compositions from Schoenberg and Varese were displayed and pieces played in listening rooms or through speakers directly overhead the musical scores. There was a certain first time thrill to seeing these scores in person from composers that we had studied and even modeled some of our compositions after.

But the one thing that made the museum visit completely engaging for the girls? Getting those handheld audio tours, something that we never thought to do. MoMA had fun kid-specific audio commentary for select artworks in their permanent collection and so it became like a scavenger hunt to find the kid icons on the plaques of as many artworks as they could find. The audio tours kept them completely engaged and provided a structure in which to view the art and they even enjoyed the regular adult tours for the special exhibitions. Long after Mark and I were “done” with the museum, the girls wanted to keep going. It sort of became a game for me too as I started anticipating or guessing which of the artworks in each gallery room might have kid commentary.

I feel like this was really the first museum outing where we spent 4-5 hours taking our time to really look at the art. The girls admittedly weren’t too excited when I announced that we were going to MoMA that morning, but it turned out to be such a great day with a leisurely lunch at the cafe. Such a far cry from spending an hour chasing after your toddler making sure she isn’t touching anything she shouldn’t be touching. I think we have finally arrived at the age where the kids are perfect museum companions.

Incidentally, the couple seated next to us at lunch was a grandfather and his grand daughter, probably around age 8 or 9. It was clear that they were having a museum date, just the 2 of them. One of the sweetest things I’ve seen in awhile.

ps. that yellow glowing square up there in the first few photos? Can you guess what it is? I bet you can’t. It’s pollen from hazelnut. Crazy.

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  • Candace March 5, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    You’re a great mother Jenna; your girls will remember things like this forever….especially since it’s documented in such a wonderful way!

  • Nancy March 5, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    The last time I went with my girls, over a year ago, I was pleased to discover they had added a little “kid lab” downstairs. I’m not sure how new it is but it was new to me! It made the trip worthwhile for them but I do look forward to them being a little older like your girls, when they might find the museum collection itself more engaging.

  • Kimberly March 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I dream of the day I can take my kids to the museum for that long! Looks wonderful. My daughter tried to “fix” a mixed media Rauschenberg at the Philadelphia Art Museum a couple weeks ago…absolutely frightening.

  • Britta March 5, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Oh! That sounds so delightful. I am still in the chasing stage but I look forward to taking our girls to these sorts of things in a bit. Our museums are on a different scale out here, but small is still good enough for a weekend jaunt.

  • Amber Marlow, theAmberShow March 5, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    The guards don’t like it when you lean over the hazelnut pollen display and try to blow it around.

    Ask me how I know.

  • Teresa March 6, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Sounds like a delightful way to spend half a day. After reading your post, I was intrigued about the Inventing Abstraction show, and am definitely inspired to take my 8 year old to the MoMA when we visit NY during Spring break.

  • Theresa March 6, 2013 at 11:54 am

    So inspirational. Musuems have always been my safe haven and as much as I enjoy closing myself off at times and just taking it all in, I look forward to the day when I can share my love of art in this way. My youngest is a bit too young for an adult museum (I think) but you’ve inspired me to take Tilda, my 5 year old on a “mommy & me” date!

  • Jenna March 7, 2013 at 11:07 am

    @Teresa Hope you make it to MoMA. It really is a great show.

  • Cristina March 8, 2013 at 5:53 am

    beautiful pics, as ever!
    I agree with you, child commentaries are life saving…and often interesting for adults too!