I have visited many art museums over the years and through seeing a variety of art I have discovered which periods of art that I prefer: Contemporary and Abstract. This has in many ways also shaped our decisions when deciding upon the art museums we want to see when we are traveling. Today, I would like to highlight a few of my favorite art museums around the world.
This is the first post in many years by guest author Geneva Varga. If you would like to read more of her work or see her original artwork – check out her digital portfolio.
Visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy was amazing, amplified by the fact that we had just moment before traveled by gondola. Our brief visit to this museum sparked my joy for the Abstract Art movement and several artists and collectors who contributed to it. In particular, Peggy Guggenheim, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, and Salvador Dali. After coming home, I did a research project on the life of Peggy Guggenheim, which was highly intriguing and made me desire to learn more about the lives of her friends, who are famous artists.
When we were in Boston, my family and I decided to go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on more of a whim then anything. It had not been previously planned in our itinerary before we left for our trip but a brochure we picked up sparked our interest. Our main interest was a special event that they were putting on to get the community involved in art. They had provided a variety of things to do, but I was particularly interested in learning how to make homemade paper.
The building in which the museum is located was the home of Isabella Stewart Gardner, who thought that America was greatly lacking in art. Therefore, she made it her mission to collect a great many pieces, in fact 2,500 objects of paintings, sculpture, furniture, textiles, drawings, and so on. These pieces come from a variety of places, yet each and every piece fits perfectly in her 15th Venetian-style castle.
After each taking our turn in making a piece of paper, my family and I meandered through the museum enjoying the art, gardens, and the ambiance that flowed from the combination of the two. I particularly liked a series of watercolor pieces that were done on watercolor paper cut to the size of the small Altoids tins, altogether it was a miniature sketchbook and journal combined into one.
Even though, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a smaller art museum than others my family has visited, it was pleasurable to visit. I am extremely glad we took the trip to this art museum, it allowed me to realise that some of the best places are the smallest treasures not known to the public at large.
In Washington, D.C. there are many art museums to choose from. Like many younger brothers, mine is not interested in art, in stark contrast dad and him were significantly more eager to visit the Spy Museum so Mum and I opted to visit the National Portrait Gallery which was nearby. She was delighted to see many of the works she had written about in her American Art History series for Bright Ideas Press.
In my opinion, the paintings by Albert Bierstadt were far more interesting. His landscapes of real life places, some that my family has even been to, had a fantastical element to them. At one point, I entered into a room with circular couches scattered throughout the floor. Hanging on the walls were several huge paintings by Bierstadt that left me in awe. I mindlessly laid upon one of the couches to simply gaze at the magnificent pieces of art. Often times, I am left in such a state and my family always becomes humored with it, not quite understanding the emotions going through my mind as I study the art.
Our most recent visit to a popular art museum was to the Art Institute of Chicago, obliviously located in Chicago, Illinois. When we arrived and made it through the ticketing booth, I immediately directed my family to the contempary art gallery, skipping over the other time periods and ancient art. We later returned to some sections, such as the medieval armory and Aztec art but we skipped the Greek and Roman sculpture section entirely as we had only last year visited both Italy and Greece.
I was excited to see a few more pieces by Pollock and Warhol. A few pieces in the Contemporary and Modern art section were amusing, to say the least, in their sense of normalcy of explicit content.
When we moved back to Oregon in 2015 and during one of our first weekends back we visited our local art museum one afternoon. We happened to go when the Coos Art Museum was hosting a free Zentangle class for the community to participate in for the festival also going on that weekend, the Blackberry Arts Festival. While I enjoyed the class, I was more impressed the art at the museum and what opportunities the museum held. My family first visited when they had the Maritime Exhibit up, which is one of their most popular annual exhibits, yet we have continued to take a peek at the ever-changing galleries.
One of my favorite exhibits was when they featured the artist Jesse Reno. I spent a significant amount of time looking at each piece of art, in fact, I was looking at the art for so long that my mom started to get worried as to what had happened to me. Yet, after I returned to where mom was she chuckled, as I apparently I had a look of utter awe upon my face. That weekend I took a seven hour art class from Jesse Reno himself, the class was entirely about his process and was extremely fun and exciting. You are able to read my more in-depth post about the class on my page.
When we were living in Redding, I always treasured the times we went to San Francisco or another big city as it was inevitable that we would visit a museum or gallery. Redding had only a small science museum focused on the local area. Yet, it seems the Oregon Coast is teeming with artists and with them, art museums, galleries, and studios.
As soon as I heard that the Coos Art Museum allowed youth volunteers I felt the urge to sign up. Initially, as I was just 13 years old, my mother was required to accompany me. Now that the staff have become acquainted with me, I volunteer alone most weeks doing behind the scenes work and Mum only joins me during CAM community days when more volunteers are needed. Volunteering at CAM has provided me with real work experience and job skills that will undoubtly help me succeed when seeking out employment in the future.
As a family we love to travel. For the past few years, we have enjoyed a road trip in the spring and a holiday abroad in the fall. Most recently, we spent two weeks in New England exploring our nation’s history and many of the iconic landmarks.
Over the years, our style of travel has evolved. Yes, much of this is due to the fact that the kids are getting older and we no longer have to worry about diaper bags, strollers, and carseats. There have also been many minor changes that we have made along the way that have made a huge difference in how we get along and how smoothly things come together.
Arguments & Frustrations
We’ve all heard family travel horror stories. You likely have a few tales of woe and angst to share yourself. Who doesn’t? Noting spoils a vacation day faster than arguments and spats about little things that we often have no control over.
A Day in Manhattan
We enjoyed good weather on most of our days – many were overcast but only one day brought rainfall. We were in Manhattan on this wet Monday and our plan for the day was to spend the morning at the Natural History Museum and then walk through Central Park to the Guggenheim where we would spend the afternoon.
We had pre-purchased tickets viaCityPASSand as it was a Monday, we envisioned exploring the museums at our leisure. We often travel in September when most children are in school and have thereby become accustomed to this luxury. My daughter, the budding artist, had been particularly looking forward to seeing the Guggenheim Museum as she had previously visited Peggy Guggenheim’s collection in Venice.
The rain, as it turned out, changed the plans of many other in the city that day. We arrived at the steps of the Natural History Museum before they opened and very quickly, as the rain intensified, the crowd on the steps grew. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait long before the doors opened and we funneled into the galleries. We soon came to realize, however, that with so many people it was difficult to really see the exhibits at a comfortable pace.
We saw what we could and then headed over to the Guggenheim. A special event closed off much of Central Park and thus we were forced to circle around the perimeter – extending our walk much farther than anticipated. When we reached Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic building, we were soaked. Frustrations rose – we were all very hungry – and tempers began to flare. We quickly grabbed a bite to eat from a street vendor and proceeded indoors.
Huge crowds were here as well and to make it worse, the spiral gallery was closed due to changing exhibits. We were thereby confined to one temporary exhibit, But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise. We even opted to skip Maurizio Cattelan’s gold toilet as there was a two hour wait.
What are Vacation Debriefs?
One of the most effective tools we use to improve how well we connect with one another is the family debrief. When we are home, this generally is a short conversation at the dinner table whereupon we each share what we are grateful for and give kudos to another for their support and our inspiration.
Daily Vacation Debriefs
When we are traveling, our debrief is more in-depth. In addition to expressing our gratitude, we also discuss a series of questions. Here’s a peak into our responses over dinner that evening in Manhattan.
What did you like most about the day?
Unanimous agreement: Natural History Museum
What did you like the least about the day?
Jeffrey: The crowds
Geneva: The crowds – I wanted to sketch the wooly mammoth skeleton at the Natural History Museum but I couldn’t.
Eva: The crowds
Patrick: The Guggenheim – I was disappointed. There wasn’t much to see and the temporary exhibit we did see was just too weird for my taste.
What could we have done together to make it a better day?
Jeffrey: I wish we had brought snacks
Geneva: We should have checked the museum websites
Eva: We could have communicated better
Patrick: Let’s try an impromptu huddles next time things go awry rather than plowing forward with our plan. We may want to make a change.
In addition to our daily debrief in the evening, we also wrap-up our family holiday with a more extensive debrief. This conversation typically takes place during our flight layover.
What’s the highlight of trip?
What’s most surprising about the trip?
If you were to recommend this trip to others, what words of advice would you offer?
Where would you most like to go next?
Strengthening Family Bonds
We have all come to look forward to these family debriefs. My daughter says,
“They really help us to connect better with one another. We learn what things make each of us frustrated. We help each other find strategies to overcome these frustrations and we learn to let things go. We can then focus on the fun and better enjoy the experience.”
This post is part of a series entitled Family Travel Hacks whereby I will be sharing tips and tricks we have learned over the years for successful family travel. You’ll find ideas for:
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Our journey continues today north across the dramatic Apennine Mountains to the romantic city of Venice. Here we also make an excursion to the colorful island of Burano.
We departed Assisi en route to Venice excited to get underway. Along the way, we stopped for lunch at Ristorante Albergo in Ravenna at a family restaurant where we enjoyed a wonderful homemade lasagna. After our meal we had a short time to wanter about.
Tip: Click on the links of the notable sights to enjoy a photo sphere in Google maps, a 360-degree panorama.
We took in the local Basilica di S. Apollinaire in Classe (interior view) and a statue of Cesar Augustus, founder of the part of Classe. We also saw four water buffalo statues but our guide did not know the significance.
Upon our arrival at the bus terminal near Venice, we boarded a water taxi and headed to the heart of Venezia. We walked about just a little and the Basilica of St. Mark’s was pointed out to us. We then immediately boarded a gondola. I observed that our fellow travelers all grouped up in groups of sex, leaving us on our own. As a result, the musicians boarded with us – quite a treat!
Jeffrey and Geneva snagged the best seats, the little squirts! I loved the narrow alleys and “backstreets” of classical Venice.
We then immediately boarded a third floating vessel, this one more like a small passenger ferry, to return to the bus terminal. We ultimately made our way to Hotel Il Burchiello(street view), located in Mira on the mainland. Fortunately, we would have another day in Venice and didn’t feel as rushed as we had in the previous cities.
The following day we returned to Venice. Our first stop was the Museo del Vetro on the island of Murano to see how the artisans create the hand blown and sculpted glass for which they are so famous. Venetian glass was developed in the thirteenth century and toward the end of that century, the center of the Venetian glass industry moved to Murano.
In the showroom, the guide showed how durable the pieces with silver and gold infused inside the glass by literally banging it atop the table. We selected a rose bud vase on behalf of my mother-in-law as well as a pendant for myself.
From there, we had the option to join the group for a tour of the Cathedral Basilica di San Marcohowever we opted to explore on our own. Geneva really wanted to visit the Peggy Guggenheim museum which we had observed from the water taxi the day prior and we wouldn’t have had time otherwise.
Along the way, we stumbled upon a Vivaldi museum featuring a diverse collection of string instruments from his time. It was a lovely hidden gem that we wouldn’t have experienced with the group and one that we all enjoyed.
The winding streets of Venice are indeed a labyrinth. I’ve always prided myself on my sense of direction but the narrow alleys and many dead-ends, it wasn’t easy. I blame it on the poorly drawn map we were provided. I swear it wasn’t drawn to scale. We continued on and upon crossing the Ponte dell Accademia, we knew we were close.
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection (interior courtyard) was also spectacular. Original works by master artists – Calder, Dalí, Kandinsky, Picasso, and brothers Jackson and Charles Pollock among others. One of my favorites was an untitled collection (pharmacy) by Joseph Cornell. Seeing the pieces in person was just stunning.
Thereafter, we made our way to the Ponte di Rialto as we had passed under it on the water taxi and that side was under renovation. We wanted to see it from the reverse. It was a significant distance away and my navigation skills were again tested (click to see the crowds) but we prevailed.
As we made our way back to meet our group we did a little shopping. I found the most wonderful glass shop that showcased very intricate sculptures of insects by Camuffo Giovanni. I had a difficult time selecting one. Now that we are home, I wish I had purchased a couple more. He seems a little lonely. I haven’t been able to find them online, sadly.
At 2pm, we met up with the group and took a ferry to the island of Burano. The colorful homes here are very vibrant. It was clear the residents of this island enjoy a simpler, less hectic pace of life. Sadly, many of the homes are also for sale. Giuseppe explained that the young are selling their inheritance and moving away.
Here, we enjoyed a nice seafood meal at Ai Pescartori(street view) with clams in a tomato-base, seafood risotto, shrimp, grilled fish, and calamari. Dessert was a light tiramisu style torte with a crispy top layer. So good!
After our early dinner, we wandered about taking photos. Geneva wanted to sit and paint so I stayed with her (we both would have liked to stay here longer to relax) while the boys continued to explore.
We returned to the hotel relatively early in the evening. Patrick and I walked to a little market a few blocks down the street for snacks. Thereafter we retired early.