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Nontraditional Offerings Draw Museum Visitors

Written by , published March 25, 2014

With spring officially here and summer around the corner, lots of folks are making vacation (and staycation) plans.  Museums, since they are usually gloriously climate-controlled and require no slathering of sunscreen to enjoy, make great escapes when the mercury rises, and their offerings are more diverse than you might imagine.  For example, most museums these days complement exhibits—whether they present art, history, science, or other disciplines—with film screenings, lectures, art demonstrations, kids’ activities like storytimes and DIY crafts, and even themed dance parties. Not only does this expanded focus bring the museums new audiences, but it also helps make the collections more relevant and accessible to visitors who may have previously thought they weren’t “museum types.” 

When you get down with your funky self amid a collection of modern sculptures, or meditate in a gallery filled with Japanese antiquities, it’s easier to find a visceral, lasting connection with the museum-going experience.

Here’s a smattering of interesting special offerings at some of Texas’ most popular museums. But please, don’t stop here: Your favorite museum near you likely has similar programs to enjoy this summer.

San Antonio’s McNay Museum of Art celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and rolls out a GET REEL lineup of critically acclaimed movies from the year 1954, the year of its founding, including Rear Window and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The museum’s popular 2nd Thursdays celebrations include free music (live or DJ) on the grounds, refreshments from local breweries and wineries, and food for sale from some of the city’s best food trucks. See www.mcnayart.org.

South of the McNay on the rapidly developing (and beautifully landscaped) “Museum Reach” stretch of the River Walk, the San Antonio Museum of Art features a film series, too, highlighting foreign cinema in a program called Global Lens. Upcoming screenings include award-winning (and often controversial) works from Brazil, Algeria, India, Palestine, and the Philippines. In addition to the film series, SAMA also hosts Saturday-morning meditation classes in the Japanese galleries, Tuesday-evening sketching instruction in the galleries, and an art party every second Friday of the month, which features art, music, and cocktails on the River Landing. See www.samuseum.org.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, offers an extensive year-round film calendar of classic, independent, and contemporary films, often linked to current exhibitions and accompanied by appearances by artists, critics, and film scholars. The museum also hosts a book club, regular art-and-wine seminars, and lectures and presentations related to offerings at the museum. See www.mfah.org.

In Dallas, the Nasher Sculpture Center offers a speaker series and regular live music in the outdoors sculpture garden, and its First Saturday celebration—held on the first Saturday of every month—not only provides free admission, but also art activities for kids, art demonstrations, art-themed scavenger hunts, yoga in the gardens, children’s storytimes, and other activities designed to encourage interaction. See www.nashersculpturecenter.org.

In far West Texas, the El Paso Museum of Art hosts regular Saturday-afternoon screenings of international films, plus programs that include lectures, gallery talks, and workshops that parallel exhibits and collections. You can also schedule tours of the galleries in English and Spanish. See www.elpasoartmuseum.org.

In Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art’s popular “B-Scene” parties have injected a youthful vibrancy to the museum-going experience since they debuted a few years ago. Held every other month on Friday night, B-Scene parties include live music, specialty cocktails, light foods, and dancing in the museum’s ground-floor foyer.  The Blanton also hosts regular First Thursday events, when the galleries, café, and gift shop stay open until 9. Other non-traditional offerings include gallery talks and “Art Glimpse” tours, which are fast-paced tours designed to introduce participants to 20 works in 20 minutes. See www.blantonmuseum.org.

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