The Montclair Art Museum has been on my family's “New Jersey Family Fun Bucket List” for quite some time now. Finally, we were blessed with a Saturday afternoon with no plans (almost unheard of in these parts) AND a free museum day through Bank of America's Museum's on Us program. Hooray! It was finally meant to be, so we quickly headed out on our short journey to Montclair to experience all that this art museum had to offer.
To be honest, art museums (even the spectacular Met in NYC) with my three young active kids doesn't always equal a successful full day of art appreciation. For me, it is definitely more about exposing my kids to art and culture, even in small (or local) doses. With that being said, the Montclair Art Museum absolutely did not disappoint! The main floor had a wonderful variety in their collections of paintings, sculpture and Native American Art.
My oldest daughter, who is quite artistic herself, would have probably spent more time enjoying the modern art pieces, however with her younger brother (6) and sister (2) in tow we ended up going through the galleries much quicker than I would have liked. Thankfully, my husband used his Superdad skills to divert a few toddler tantrums and get our youngest to hang back in the stroller. We were all now able to enjoy the surroundings without chasing an unhappy kid, much to the relief of the museum security guards.
Unfortunately, the timing of our visit at the beginning of August meant that we just missed the Andy Warhol exhibit. Although I was quite disappointed about this, the saving grace was that there was still an interactive kids workshop called the Family Learning Lab on the 3rd floor that complimented the Warhol exhibit and the whole POP Art scene. This is where my kids spent most of their time: using the stencils, markers, crayons to create their own Pop Art masterpieces. There was some great artwork and inspiration on the walls and the room was pretty lively. However, there was no museum staff there to direct the kids or provide ideas for creative expression. This would have been quite helpful since when I tried to channel the artist and teacher within, my kids lost interest rather quickly.
On the first floor (the lower level) there were several classrooms where art classes and summer camp programs take place. By the looks of the artwork on display, the instructors are teaching their students some amazing things. You can also check out the Montclair Art Museum Employee Art Fair on Sunday September 25th from 12-5pm (free) to see a variety of work from artists/staff members.
As you know no museum (or zoo) visit is complete without a trip through the gift shop and thankfully the Montclair Art Museum had a very cute small one with some great books and art stuff for the kids. In addition, there were a few sculptures to enjoy on the museum grounds. My children thought these were interesting and cool and even looked at them for more than 2 seconds! It really was my lucky day because I was even able to get my camera-shy son to let me take a picture of him with one of the sculptures.
Overall, I found the museum to have a nice collection and it was good to have an actual ART museum close by without heading into NYC. My kids thought it was just okay though. Next visit I will make sure to go when the museums has one of their special programs for kids and families, as this is best way to get the most out of the museum when you have younger kids!
Here are some of their upcoming family friendly events that you will definitely want to check out (call the museum at 973-259-5137 for additional information)
Park Bench is a program offered on the Second Wednesday of the Month from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. This program introduces children to the museum by participating in various art projects, socializing with other children and having an opportunity to take a guided tours of the museum with a museum educator. Cost: $6/children, $12/adults (FREE for adult Members).
Home School Day is offered on the third Friday of the Month from 12 – 2 p.m. For kids (Ages 4–8) and the Third Thursday of the Month, 12 – 2 p.m. (Ages 9-13)These two-hour educational programs include a gallery tour and a studio art project led by MAM educators. Cost: $6/children, $12/Adults (FREE for adult Members).
The Little Read is a free library sponsored program where children learn to enjoy a good story read aloud by Montclair’s neighbors, writers, local heroes, and celebrities. Saturday, October 22, 1 – 2 p.m.
Pumpkin Carving Program is held on Friday, October 28, 6 – 8 p.m. The Montclair Art Museum will get you and your family ready for Halloween with trick-or-treating in costume, seasonal refreshments, as well as family pumpkin carving (Pumpkins, art supplies, and tools provided). Cost: $20/Member family, $25/nonmember family. Advance ticket sales available in The Store at MAM or by calling 973-259-5137.
CinéKids at MAM Saturday, November 12, 3:30 p.m. Here's an amazing opportunity to introduce your kids to French cinema as two award-winning short films, L’hiver de Léon and Le printemps de Mélie are screened at the museum. Both films are in French without subtitles and will each be introduced in English so non-French speakers will be able to follow the story line. Screenings will be followed by a 20-minute arts workshop inspired by the films. Cost: $5/ MAM Members and nonmembers. Recommended for children ages 4 – 8, must be accompanied by parent or guardian
Normal Museum Hours are 12pm -5pm Wednesdays – Sundays. It's free the first Friday of every month! Or $12 per adult (children under 12 are free). For more information visit their website.