Not all New Year’s Resolutions need to be as painful as giving up dessert or hitting the gym more often! If you wanted to step away from the TV and get more cultured in 2014, now’s the perfect time to learn about the visual arts. No matter where you live, there are resources in your community waiting for you. Discovering art just requires an open mind and a little curiosity.
Weekend Away on an Art Adventure
To get a super dose of art, plan a short trip focused just on seeing galleries and museums. Take advantage of free museum tours. Curator and docent tours will direct you to some of the highlights of a museum’s collection and will use these works to explain major art periods and styles.
Don’t be intimidated by the size of a major, urban museum. Decide to focus on one or two areas only — it’s better to see some of the art very well than to try to rush through everything. Use the gallery tour to help you decide what styles you prefer. You don’t have to like everything in the museum; art is about taste, specifically your taste!
New York City is a top art destination for its world class museums. This year there will be some fantastic special exhibits coming to the Big Apple:
• Metropolitan Museum — Antonio Canova: The Seven Last Works
• Guggenheim Museum — Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe
• Frick Collection — Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes
• Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) — Frank Lloyd Wright and the City: Density vs. Dispersal
• Brooklyn Art Museum — Ai Weiwei: According to What?
Not to be forgotten are equally exciting exhibits of Impressionist, Expressionist and Surrealist Art planned in Seattle, Chicago, Washington DC, and San Francisco. I’m particularly looking forward to “Bouquets to Art,” de Young Museum’s creative show that pairs floral still life paintings with real flower arrangements for one week only!
Big metropolitan areas are known for their marquee art museums, but that’s not the only place to look for amazing art. There are hundreds of top quality museums with superb but focused collections. Look for regional museums which focus on local art and culture or specialized museums that provide some of the highest quality art in a very narrow genre.
The Corning Museum of Glass in upstate New York has an impressive collection of historic glass objects and contemporary glass art. The best collection of Russian Icons in America is actually located in Clinton, Massachusetts and features an authentic tea room for an appropriate snack break. Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas has a phenomenal American art collection that rivals many other major museums.
First Thursday Gallery Walks
While art galleries are in business to sell art, you can think of them as free mini-museums. Galleries tend to feature the work of active, local artists and are vital for the art community. You will find that galleries are very specialized and may be exhibiting anything from contemporary photography to folk art, abstract paintings to decorative sculpture.
Traditionally, galleries host an open house or “art walk” the first Thursday of every month with later opening hours and sometimes a reception for visitors. Since galleries tend to be clustered together, this makes for an enjoyable evening of gallery hopping!
Decorative Historic Homes
Why not mix in a little history and visit a historic home? Across America you can find preserved houses that have been restored to their historic splendor. Period furniture and decorations can be found in the home which compliment the already elegant architectural details of the house. As an added bonus, you can learn about the house’s former residents and their experiences.
The non-profit preservation society Historic New England maintains 36 homes in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island which date from 1664 to 1846 spanning a huge range of early American design.
Among Charleston, South Carolina’s many preserved mansions, the Aiken-Rhett House illustrates what life was like in the South before and after the Civil War for both the rich homeowners and the African-Americans in the household.
To explore life for Mexican-American settlers in the 19th century, you should visit the Casa de Estudillo and Casa de Machado y Silva in San Diego’s Old Town with its adobe buildings and desert gardens.
Make Your Own Art
Maybe the best way to learn about art is to discover your creative side and make some yourself! Many universities, community colleges, and adult education centers offer drawing, painting, or sculpting classes which provide materials, studio space, and patient instruction for even the most beginner student.
“Paint your own pottery” studios, which let you select and decorate a pre-fired piece (like a plate or piggy bank), are gaining popularity and are opening in many residential areas. After two hours of painting and a week to fire the piece, you can take home your own ceramic masterpiece.
For an even more casual art experience, look for a “sip & paint” studio that serves wine and guides attendees through the painting process to create the evening’s selected piece. Being an artist has never been so easy or so fun!
So however you choose to do it, get started and discover some beautiful art!
Photo Credits: author, Brian Holland, BurnAway, author, and author.