Best New Winter Art Exhibits for NYC Kids

2/12/16 - By Sona Charaipotra

New York City is chock-full of amazing art museums for adults and kids—an especially nice treat in the thick of winter when the chill has many families looking for warm, indoor fun (complete with hot cocoa, of course!). We've pulled together six new and inspiring art exhibits for NYC families, as well as a couple of must-see installations that will be closing soon.

Need more inspiration? We recently reviewed the new dinosaur exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, Vikings in Times Square, a tech-focused Silicon City installation at the New-York Historical Society and a brand-new kid-friendly museum in Williamsburg. See, winter isn't so bad, right?


Kids can walk through and peer out of the textile-studded Sew What? tunnel at the Children's Museum of the Arts. Photo courtesy of the museum.

Sew What? — Soho
Children’s Museum of the Arts, 103 Charlton Street (between Hudson and Greenwich Streets)
On view Tuesday, February 2-Sunday, May 22
Got a mini-fashionista in your brood? Indulge them in this colorful and cool textile exhibit at the Children’s Museum of the Arts, which focuses on contemporary fiber craft featuring multiple artists. Kids (and adults) will be itching to get their hands on the various installations, which include artist Jeila Gueramian’s blanket fort explosion and Sheila Pepe’s yarn bomb chandelier, inspiring young material junkies to create their own projects at home. 

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Get behind-the-scenes of Mo Willems' Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. Image courtesy of the museum.

The Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems — Upper West Side
New-York Historical Society Museum and Library, 170 Central Park West (at 77th Street)
Friday, March 18-Sunday, September 25
Iconic children’s book author-illustrator Mo Willems—the man behind the kids’ classics Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, Knuffle Bunny and my personal favorite, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs—is celebrated in this New-York Historical Society exhibit of the Caldecott-winner’s art, featuring sketches, drawings and an insider’s peek at the process of making magic. Kid activities are on tap for a series of "family weekend" events around the March opening. 

Storyteller Flor Bromley performs in front of Pollen Catchers at the Sugar Hill Children's Museum. Photo by Michael Palma/courtesy the museum.

People, Places and Things: Selections from The Studio Museum — Harlem
Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, 898 Saint Nicholas Avenue (at 155th Street)
Harlem's new children's museum aims to showcase how oral storytelling tradition goes hand-in-hand with art. The Legacy Gallery's current exhibit, organized by The Studio Museum, explores artwork from the 1930s through the 1980s. The Main Gallery of the Living Room features the gorgeous Pollen Catchers’ Color Mixing Machine exhibit, a site-specific, folk-inspired mural created by artist Saya Woolfalk and inspired by a collaboration with her young daughter, Aya. Plan a visit around the museum's storytime or open studio art-making time to round out your visit. 

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Beau McCall's button-encrusted bathtub at the Button Show at Rush Gallery. Photo by Jonathan Blank/courtesy of the gallery.

Button Up at the Button Show — Chelsea
The Rush Gallery, 526 West 26th Street
From Thursday, January 21 through Saturday, March 12
Thinking of taking your kids to a real Chelsea art gallery? The Button Show might be just the right opportunity to introduce them to the fine arts scene. The exhibit features work by 11 artists using buttons as a dominant medium or featured element in their work. “Reimagined and repurposed,” as the project’s curator, Souleo, likes to put it. Quirky and cool, this exhibit will definitely offer kids (and grown-ups!) a new perspective on how to define art. Warning: two photographs in the exhibit feature nudity—something to keep in mind for young gallery-goers, though we suspect they won't mind. More importantly, keep the preschoolers home or remind them it's a no-touch kind of exhibit. 

Beaver Run — Chelsea
National Museum of Mathematics, 11 East 26th Street
Permanent exhibit, opened January 30
Fully interactive and immersive, the Beaver Run exhibitfour years in the makingfeatures two creatures in a cube who are on a path that, with visitors’ help, will never collide, thanks to some slick mathematical equating. Kids can use dials to manipulate and rearrange the tracks in some 16 million (yes, million!) ways, which means they could spend hours playing around with the exhibit or exploring the rest of this super kid-friendly museum. 

Le bestiaire is a colorful, animal-inspired exhibit. Kids can participate in related craft workshops. Photo by Michael George/courtesy of FIAF.

Ionna Vautrin: Le Bestiaire — Upper East Side
FIAF Gallery, 22 East 60th Street (between Park and Madison Avenue)
From January 16 through Saturday, April 2
Art creates empathy, right? That’s the idea at this FIAF Gallery exhibit, which transforms the space into an imaginary zoo. The artwork here is only for looking at, but kids can transform themselves into all different kids of animals, from a little bird to a roaring tiger, by making their own creature costumes in related workshops. The exhibit is part of the French Institute Alliance Française’s annual Tilt Festival, running March 4-April 3. FREE 

Honorable Mentions

These winter art exhibits are not brand-new, but we couldn't help including them. 

ArtLab: Process — Midtown East
Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street
Through Wednesday, August 31
The Museum of Modern Art is continually exploring different themes and genres with fresh workshops. Its ArtLab series is a great way to introduce kids to MoMA in an easy, relaxed and accessible way. ArtLab offers a hands-on approach to different aspects of making art. Through August, the focus is on process. Kids and adults can design a chair, sketch a still life, assemble a sculpture or even collaborate on a project. Free with museum admission. Kids 16 and under admitted FREE.

A colorscript of
The Incredibles by Lou Romano is one example of the behind-the-scenes peek you'll get at the Cooper Hewitt's Pixar exhibit. Image courtesy of Disney/Pixar.

Pixar: The Design of Story — Upper East Side
Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, 2 East 91st Street (between 5th and Madison Avenues)
Through Sunday, August 7
From Toy Story to Cars to The Incredibles, what kid (and parent!) hasn’t fallen head-over-heels in love with a Pixar tale? We first told you about this exhibit when it debuted last September, so it's not exactly new, but we didn't want you to miss it. Take a peek behind the pixels at this awesome exhibit that digs into the design process as the geniuses at Pixar build story from the ground up. Featuring art from the films’ earliest stages to the point where they hit the screen, this 650-plus piece exhibit, culled from more than 25 years of filmmaking, will have the kids—and you—geeking out in the best way. Kids 18 and under admitted FREE.

Find more museum fun in our NYC Museum Kids Guide.

Top image: Explore animal masks like this red parrot by Amelie Fontiane at Le bestiaire exhibit at the FIAF Gallery. Photo courtesy of FIAF.