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Boston Area Art Museums (especially north of Boston)

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Aug 15th, 2014, 09:50 PM
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Boston Area Art Museums (especially north of Boston)

A friend is coming to visit in early September, and he wants to go to some art museums.

When he was here earlier this summer we went to the MFA and the PEM. I'm guessing he would enjoy the Gardner this trip, and there are several new (since June) exhibitions at the MFA as well.

So that might cover it right there. We have only Saturday until about 3 (i.e., leave the museum no later than 3) and then Sunday from about 1-5 for the museums. But just in case, does anyone have advice on other (and especially smaller or lesser-known) art museums (or museums with art)? Here are my ideas so far.

The ICA is out—I visited it once, and I have absolutely zero desire to go back. Don't bother recommending it. I'm guessing I would have the same reaction to the DeCordova, based on its website, although I might tolerate it a little better than I did the ICA.

I've found the Addison in Andover to be sort of hit or miss, and it looks to be more of a miss in early September (unfortunately the Tryon exhibition, which looks great, opens after he leaves).

The Currier in Manchester, NH, is a possibility.

Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester is another. Although I was disappointed by it when I went a couple of years ago, it re-opens next week after a year-long renovation, and I am wondering how big a difference there will be.

A couple of dark horses are the Museum of Printing in North Andover (both of us have been involved in publishing via writing, editing, and such) and the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton (west, not north, I realize). Has anyone been to either of those?

I guess my basic question is whether any of the other museums I mentioned has enough going for it (and not being in the middle of Boston is one positive) to displace the MFA and the Gardner as the go-to museums for this visit.

Thanks!
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Aug 16th, 2014, 03:52 AM
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I liked the Cape Ann museum because of its combination of art and furniture, but then I like Samuel MacIntyre and other Salem School furniture a lot and enough artists summered on Cape Ann to make it worthwhile. I'll have to visit again this winter to see what they have done.

The Currier is interesting in itself but becomes a must if you can tour the Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian house they own.
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Aug 16th, 2014, 04:09 AM
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If you choose to go to Addison in early Sept check out when school dates are at Phillips Academy - you don't want to go there on student move-in weekend
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Aug 16th, 2014, 04:51 PM
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Gail--We won't be going to Addison. Tryon exhibition, which would make it worthwhile, won't be open yet.

Ackislander--I don't remember what put me off on the CAM, but it seemed not to live up to its billing. And I actually like furniture and decorative objects. Maybe I am not remembering it right. Or maybe it was more than a year or two ago.
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Aug 17th, 2014, 03:18 AM
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When I saw the title of your thread, I thought of the Currier museum. We went there for the first time a few weeks ago. The main reason for choosing it was to tour of the Zimmerman (Frank Lloyd Wright) house, but we also enjoyed seeing the museum collection. There was a good special exhibit, too, but that is over this weekend. I believe there will be a special exhibit of some Dutch and Flemish art in September. And the Zimmerman house tour is great. We were able to get tickets only a few days in advance of our visit.
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Aug 18th, 2014, 08:41 PM
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I love DeCordova, not so much with the indoor museum, but for the beautiful grounds and the sculpture park. I go there often with my toddler, and it is a delightful place to be on a summer day. You can bring your own picnic there too.

Otherwise, how about house museums such as Otis house, or Gibson House? Not so much art but lots of interesting history and period interiors.

I know you said north of Boston, but how about RISD?

Finally, I'd also recommend university art museums. I think the Rose at Brandeis is having a couple of great exhibitions right now, I've also previously visited the Davis at Wellesley and the McMullen at Boston College. You can possibly visit all 3 in a day.
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Aug 18th, 2014, 08:43 PM
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P.S. I have been to the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton a few years ago. Interesting if you are into Russian icons... Having been there once, have no desire to return.
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Aug 19th, 2014, 02:58 PM
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Vttraveleer—The Currier is a definite possibility. I had noted the Dutch/Flemish exhibition with great interest. I think the Zimmerman house might be well received as an add-on.

yk—Can't do south of Boston this time, especially anything as far away as RISD. Period houses (of the Otis et al. variety) aren't on the agenda either. University museums perhaps, although we won't have a full day either Saturday or Sunday. Thanks for the suggestions. And thanks for the HU on the Russian Icons.
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Sep 8th, 2014, 03:09 PM
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Thanks again for all the input. Here is the outcome:

My friend was very keen on visiting the Gardner, so that is what we did Saturday. Neither of us had realized it does not open until 11 AM, but at least we discovered that on Friday night, not Saturday morning! The good news was that meant we could go someplace for brunch before the museum.

We parked in the 1330 Boylston garage (the attendant said it would be $16 for the few hours we would be there, but it ended up being only $6) and walked over to Neighborhoods Coffee & Crepes, arriving just before 10 AM. By the time we got to the counter to order, however, it was after 10, and they stop serving egg-filled crepes at 10 (and won't make any exceptions for people who were on-site or in line before 10).

So we went next door to Thornton's Fenway Grille (100 Peterborough Street). I had scrambled eggs with bacon, home fries, and rye toast. My friend had the Animal House (all their omelets are names for movies) with home fries and wheat toast. Food and service were good, but they only bring you one little packet of Smucker's jam for four triangles of toast (although if you ask for more, they will bring more).

Suitably fortified, we walked over to the Gardner (about 15 minutes). When we got there I discovered that there was an artist in residence conducing a free "make art workshop", so I decided to do that while my friend started looking at the museum. (I had been to the Gardner before, and we only paid $5 each because I had a discount pass from my local public library, so I didn't mind missing time in the museum. In case you are interested, they have an artist-led workshop the first Saturday of every month. I think there is some kind of visitor workshop every week, but the first Saturdays are the best, they said.)

I ended up spending more than an hour in the "studio" and had a ball. The art of the day was gelatin block printing. You apply a thin layer of ink (with the consistency of paint) to a block of pharmaceutical-grade gelatin and lay down interesting objects (leaves, lace, stencils—anything with a cool shape or pattern) on the painted block. Then you fold paper over the object/block to print the ink onto the paper. In addition, or instead, you can remove the object(s) from the block and (re)print to get the details the object(s) left in the ink (leaf veins, patterns, etc.). That fills in any blank areas from the first printing. Then you sponge off the ink and apply the next color and objects.

There are 5 colors of ink (yellow, red, blue, white, black). The order in which you apply them, and the colors you choose, determine the colors in the final print. I ended up doing 6 and thought they were OK but not that great. But I got a number of positive comments on them both at the museum—the artist and assistants were surprised this was only my first time doing printmaking; they said I had good technique and several other participants complimented on me on my prints—and later from my friend, as well as from Facebook friends after I posted pictures of them.

Usually I think of the "make art" opportunities at museums as for children, but at least 80% of the participants when I was there were adults. And those of us who were there at the start got to do several prints, even though the "official" position was one per person, because there was hardly anyone there when we began.

As for my friend, he enjoyed the museum but would not rank it among his favorites (he is an avid art-museum-goer and creates geometric sketches as one of his hobbies). He appreciated the fact that the art is arranged as Mrs. Gardner displayed it in her lifetime, but he also didn't like the lack of labels by the art (they have guide cards for each room) or the somewhat "random" way in which things are grouped. And he thought they should have played up the stolen art aspect in the gift shop more than they did—there was a particular book on stolen art he was looking for that they did not carry—although one can understand why they might not want to emphasize that particular area.

At least it was a sunny day (the previous time I visited, the day was overcast, and the museum was incredibly gloomy), Even so, my friend though the lighting did not show off the art as well as it could have (and it was still someway dim in some rooms).

All told, we were there between 3 and 3.5 hours, and it was plenty of time to see everything. On a humorous side note—it is not a large museum, but I couldn't find my friend when I went looking for him after I finished with the printmaking, despite looking everywhere on all 3 floors! He ended up finding me in the Titian Room.
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Sep 8th, 2014, 03:11 PM
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As for Sunday, we went sightseeing on Cape Ann with some colleagues instead of going to another museum. The day was too pretty to be indoors.
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Sep 8th, 2014, 03:49 PM
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I like the Currier in Manchester a lot. They have a lot of gems and a lot of New England art/history. It's big enough to have an impressive collection, but small enough to take everything in without feeling like you're spending too much time there. Interestingly, it's nestled in a residential neighborhood.

Further north in Canterbury, NH is the Shaker Village. Absolutely worth the trip. It's even more special if you can go there when the weather is at it's fall best. Numerous buildings, very well preserved, and they let you nose around inside. There's a very nice gift shop and restaurant.
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Sep 9th, 2014, 03:56 AM
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Jaya--at the end of July I decided I needed to take a short trip before heading into a very busy time at work. I decided I wanted to see the canterbury Shaker village and the Currier/FLW
Zimmerman house. We have been driving past both for years en route from VT to Boston or to relatives' houses in northern MA. We had a great time seeing them with an overnight in Concord.
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Sep 9th, 2014, 12:46 PM
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Thanks for the report back, Cranachin. The art-making studio sounded really fun! And great tip about the parking garage!
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