Next up in our museums series is the Nassau County Museum of Art, an ideal setting for introducing children to art—a gift they may well cherish for a lifetime. While the exhibit space is very manageable, meaning it will not be too overwhelming or exhausting for young visitors, there's enough to see and do here to keep you coming back for more. In addition to the interior space in the Gregorian mansion, there's a sculpture garden that visitors can enjoy, with the works of Tom Otterness and Fernando Botero. Or relax in the formal gardens with their soothing patterns and shapes, or hike through one of the many well-marked trails along the 145-acre preserve. If there's one message to be gained from a visit here, it's that art takes many forms, from sculpture and architecture to nature, and at the Nassau County Museum of Art, one can see and experience it all in one place.
There is a growing body of research linking the importance of emotional regulation to happiness and school success.
Understanding our emotions and the emotions of others and having the vocabulary to express them are vitally important skills. A
visit to an art museum may be just the thing to allow your family the space and opportunity to express their feelings as they gaze at a piece of artwork. Perhaps the experience will open a floodgate for a reticent adolescent or simply provide some vocabulary for a younger child.
Take a look at what the museum has to offer families and at our guide to getting the most out of your visit.
"Sculpture/ Jim Dine /Pinocchio"
On exhibit through July 2012
Jim Dine's published illustrations accompanying Carlo Collodi's original texts are now on display on the second floor. If you and your children are not familiar with the original text, be prepared; it's not as simple as the more common story. It's interesting to note how the artist uses the layout of the text to get across an idea. On the first floor, my kids were entranced by the three life-size Pinocchio sculptures. One is unfinished and the family guide prompts you to ask why. Also part of the exhibit are three sculptures of gardening tools. The guide leads you on a scavenger hunt to find items such as the yellow scissor. Two of the sculptures are using real tools whereas the other does not. Here the guide prompts you to guess which tools are real and which are not.
Whenever introducing your child to something new, I find it's always best to allow them to take the lead. You may encourage them to linger a bit longer at a particular piece by pointing out what you find interesting. Many times children do not answer direct questions, so it can be helpful for adults to model their own responses to each piece. For example, you might say, "I think Pinocchio is feeling happiest in this piece because his arms are raised," or "I think Pinocchio is thinking very hard in this picture, he might not be sure what to do, I felt like that when...."
I was delighted to see that the museum provided paper and pencils in one of the upstairs galleries, an open invitation for children to respond to what they see. My daughter immediately gravitated to this and started drawing.
Programs for Families and Children
Sundays are Family Sundays at the Nassau Museum. Family-friendly gallery talks are led by an experienced museum docent and are followed by a hands-on art activity inspired by the exhibit. Similar programs are also offered during the school breaks. Throughout the year, the museum offers a variety of programming related to their current exhibits, including an event on June 16th, where participants will be able to make a silk-screen print. Inspired by Jim Dine's work, children will make art with everyday objects. During summer vacation children can also attend the museum's summer ArtVentures, where they will use a variety of mediums and materials as they use the museum's grounds and exhibits for inspiration.
The museum's sculpture garden is one of the largest public-accessible sculpture garden in the northeast. It allows children to experience the art kinesthetically, as they walk, run, and play around the artwork.
The formal gardens, designed in the 1920s by Marian Cruger Coffin, are both beautiful and historical. She was hired by Mr. and Mrs. Frick to design the landscape. Because a landscape, unlike other forms of art, is ever-changing, the restoration and upkeep are an ongoing project, made possible by a generous grant from Perry N. Gerry.
The museum is located on the grounds of the 143-acre William Cullen Bryant Preserve. Trails are well marked, relatively flat and very passable. There are 9 trails to choose from and include an overlook of Hempstead Harbor, a Tulip Tree forest trail and a meadow of native grasses.Trail maps are available inside the museum.
THE NASSAU COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART
1 Museum Dr., Roslyn
Open Tuesday—Sunday 11am-4:45pm
Adults $10; students, seniors, and children 4–12 $4; children under 4 free