the gardens at the cloisters

June 12, 2012 |  Category:   art + design life nyc outings

One of the highlights of any visit to the Cloisters is sitting in one of the 3 enclosed gardens that are carefully planted with herbs, flowers and fruiting trees gleaned from information gathered from Medieval poetry, tapestries, and other documents. It’s a great place to chase butterflies too, though the girls had a different tactic of attracting butterflies by standing still as statues with their arms outstretched, expecting them to land on them like in the movies (I don’t think a single butterfly did).

It’s funny…a reader commented how great it was that we take the kids to museums rather than malls. Well, we do that too, and in actuality we probably only go to museums just a few times a year, if that. And if there is a particular exhibit that I really want to see, I go alone. Kids are kids no matter where they grow up, and the girls are no different in their museum going attention span. It has gotten a lot better though and I do think it’s important to expose them to art, even if Mia’s response is usually “it was fine” when asked how she liked it. Even a few years ago, going to Dia in Beacon was somewhat a stressful experience making sure the girls were careful around the art, mostly because Dia is usually very empty and so the guards are hyper aware of everyone in the galleries. Hey, if I was 5 I’d want to run around in those massive rooms too. But maybe that temptation is not limited to kids. I remember my favorite high school art teacher telling us a story about the time he was escorted out of a museum once because he really, REALLY, wanted to touch his favorite painting. He said it was worth it.

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  • diamondkelt June 12, 2012 at 11:04 am

    The outside almost looks like a monastery from Italy. Seems so peaceful there, is it ever busy?? I remember the first time I ever went to a real art exhibit (7th grade) and it was for Degas. I really enjoyed it because it was such a different experience for me, but I’m not sure if I enjoyed it more because I was older or because it was such a rare thing for our school to offer field trips like that. With the way school levies go around here I’ll need to double my efforts to make sure my kiddos get to see awesome exhibits both with and without school field trips.

  • Diane June 12, 2012 at 11:15 am

    exquisitely photographed….I love how you include the girls as part of the garden, rather a portrait with the garden as background….really beautiful.

  • janine June 12, 2012 at 11:21 am

    This looks like a lovely place to visit, great photos as usual. I love taking my children to art galleries etc although I’m not always sure how to get the most out of the visit. Something I read recently said just to focus on a few pieces with children – (OK if the gallery is free!).

    My 6 year old son remains a liability, although he’s getting better. One of my favourite moments of our holiday to the states last year was in MoMa when we came across van Gogh starry night, and without us saying anything he started singing “starry, starry night, paint your colours blue and grey … ” he’d remembered it from school or tv -don’t know which.

  • Suz June 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Oh wow! I’ve always had a thing for cloisters, and these photos are so beautiful. What a lovely place.

  • kate o. June 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    i took my friend to her first art museum in college, and she was so overcome with it all that she didn’t even realize that her hand was reaching out to touch the painting. i let her graze it with her fingers until i pulled her back. even if we’d been kicked out, i agree with your teacher, it was worth it to see her do it.

  • Sally B June 12, 2012 at 4:41 pm


  • Candina June 12, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Oh, my! We were just there this weekend — which may not seem that unusual but we’re from SC. We were there for a family wedding. It’s lovely. Watching the artists work was the most fun. I’ve been following your blog forever — surreal to think we might have crossed paths.

  • Heather Joan June 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    What a beautiful place! I love that the heritage aspect of it, planting the same plants that used to grow in such places (even though I understand that it isn’t local).

    We usually only take the kids to the art gallery when they have one of their quarterly family programmes on, where they have loads of interactive crafts, activities, demonstrations, workshops, and performances for young people throughout the day. The kids (6- and 9-year-old boys) mostly only engage with art in galleries when there is a participatory element, whether it’s instigated by docents asking them to interpret a piece they encounter, or by the interactive nature of an artwork itself (e.g. a mirror maze), or by us commenting on/asking about a very specific thing about the topic or appearance of an artwork. We find that they do need some nudging to go from being passive to active viewers, and do give the same kind of “*shrug* I liked it okay” answer if we just ask them in a general way what they thought of something!

  • Pink Ronnie June 12, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Love those first two photos, Jenna.
    Ronnie xo

  • Jasmine June 13, 2012 at 2:14 am

    Ahh, thanks for reminding me that I absolutely must go to the Cloisters when I move to NY next month. This looks incredible.

  • Jenna June 13, 2012 at 8:56 am

    @diamondkelt can’t say that I can remember ever going on the weekends, but no….it doesn’t ever feel busy. It’s very peaceful!

  • Jenna June 13, 2012 at 8:57 am

    @Candina What a coincidence! Hope you had a great time!

  • Sweet Harvest Moon June 14, 2012 at 6:37 am

    What a beautiful place!

  • Jen Laceda | Tartine and Apron Strings June 14, 2012 at 11:19 pm

    I’ve heard about The Cloisters in NY. Unfortunately, we had never made it there, and now I am totally regretting it! Next time we are in NYC, we’re hitting up this spot!

  • Annie June 16, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    I had no idea this even existed (there I was thinking you’d popped off to France for a spell!). The garden looks and sounds wonderful – I will have to seek it out when I’m next in NYC.