After $69 million of renovations, the Queens Museum (formerly known as the Queens Museum of Art) reopens to the public this weekend. At more than 100,000 square feet, it is double its old size and even its signature Panorama of the City of New York display has been spruced up.
Last week my family and I went to a preview of the revamped institution and I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me as we stepped inside. As a Queens native, I grew up going here but it quickly became clear that this was not the old, under-the-radar Queens Museum I remembered. The place has been truly transformed. There's a new facade, a cute cafe with outdoor seating, a bookstore, artist studios, greatly expanded gallery space and a stunning new glass atrium, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding Flushing Meadows Corona Park including the iconic Unisphere. One thing that hasn't changed? The museum's commitment to quality family programming like its including its Drop-in Family Art Workshops.
When we visited last week, the Queens Museum was still in need of a few finishing touches, but the staff assured us it would be ready to welcome the public come this weekend. Families in particular are encouraged to celebrate the reopening on Veterans Day, when the museum will host a FREE all-afternoon art-making festival for children ages 5 to 12. Here are the highlights of the revamped Queens Museum for kids:
My children really loved roaming around the new 50,000-square-foot glass atrium, which has giant steps for you to hang out on. It's a big wide open space that invites exploration. The museum has a new facade, too, and landscaped grounds that will eventually host outdoor art displays.
Our next stop was the always impressive Panorama of the City of New York, which we've covered in depth before. It was fun trying to find our house and pointing out different landmarks like the Citigroup Building in Long Island City, the Empire State and the Chrysler. In addition to undergoing a general facelift, the Panorama is now surrounded by a new elevated glass walkway. My kids loved that they could walk over the display and look down on it.
The new gallery space will leave plenty of room to show off the museum's Tiffany glass collection and there's a new permanent exhibit: a model of the New York watershed system. My kids enjoyed the new temporary Peter Schumann: The Shatterer exhibit, the first solo show by the renowned Bread and Puppet Theater founder. His playful black-and-white figures are truly eye-catching and my daughter loved putting on her own little performance with the ones she was allowed to touch. Schumann also painted the elaborate mural on the large curved wall that separates the new and old museum spaces.
Regular family programming will start up again in December, including free with suggested admission Drop-in Family Art Workshops for children ages 5 to 12 on Sunday afternoons. Kids of all abilities are welcome, including those with special needs.
Looking ahead: There will be a summer art camp that will take advantage of all of the great kids' attractions in Flushing Meadows Corona Park including the Queens Zoo and the Queens Botanical Garden, and in 2015 a brand-new branch of the Queens Public Library will open inside the museum.
Veterans Day is a great time to check out the revamped museum. During the FREE Festival of Artmaking for Families, children ages 5 to 12 can try a wide variety of creative activities like a museum-wide scavenger hunt, "The World of Tomorrow Photo Booth," puppet making, circuit bending, Korean brush painting and collaborative art projects.
From the rebranding and the refurbishing, it's clear that the Queens Museum wants to try to expand its reach, and we hope that it's successful. We have been raving about its family programming for years and we encourage you to go check it out for yourself. I know my daughters and I will be back soon.
The Queens Museum is located on New York Avenue in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Suggested admission is $8 for adults, $4 for students, free for children under age 12.