The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is a truly iconic institution recognized globally for its outstanding art collection, famous location and distinguished main building. The museum’s 140-year statement of purpose still guides the museum today - "to be located in the City of New York, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining in said city a Museum and library of art, of encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts, and the application of arts to manufacture and practical life, of advancing the general knowledge of kindred subjects, and, to that end, of furnishing popular instruction." It is especially apparent to me now, as a parent, that they are succeeding in passing down this vision to the new generations that pass through its doors. Growing up regularly visiting the museum with my own parents developing my personal appreciation for history and the arts, and now getting the chance to experience the museum with my own kids, heightens my appreciation for such a noble task that this and other museums carry in the community.
It is the largest Arts Museum in the United States and one of the world’s most visited. The museum contains over two million works among which are the most recognized pieces such as Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware, Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Straw Hat, Gaugin’s Midday Nap, Uccello’s Portrait of a Lady, Van Eyck’s Crucifixion diptych, numerous recognizable works by Italian Renaissance and Spanish artists, as well as significant illuminated manuscripts, Egyptian artifacts, just to name a few. It is a literal treasure trove of artwork to be discovered at every visit. Aside from the main building, The Cloisters and the Met Breuer also house an extensive collection of art from Medieval Europe and Contemporary art, respectively.
We planned our visit around attending a couple of the kid’s programs offered that day. As the kids picked up their maps of the museum, the kids were immediately drawn by the Egyptian Art wing as my daughter noticed a photo in the pamphlet of a Sphinx like statue that she just HAD to find. Walking through the dimly lit pyramid exhibit was amazing - walking through the tight quarters and physically being so close to historical hieroglyphics was spellbinding. The intricate details of the writing raise a lot of questions with the kids. They loved that the writing in pictures were easily recognizable as they tried to interpret the meanings themselves. I was especially intrigued by the handwriting on the old papyrus. It’s truly amazing that such a delicate object could have survived centuries. We recruited various Museum docents to help us find this particular statue that my daughter was fixated on, and the search finally led us out towards the gorgeous Sackler Wing which housed the Temple of Dendur, built around 15 B.C. under emperor Augustus. The Sphinx like statue was indeed there, towards one side of this Temple – but it was not what she expected because of the diminutive scale. In disappointment, she was ready to move on.
Walking through the European and Decorative Arts hall was another highlight for our trip. My son especially found it hilarious how the sculptures were all naked of course, and the two giggled through the rooms as they pointed out certain parts to each other. The airy naturally lit rooms are a personal favorite of mine, there is something refreshing and calm about it. Through the amazingly well designed Met Kids website, we had found some kid’s programs for the day that piqued our interest before making our visit. We made our way down towards the Nolen library to catch Storytime. Going through 3 books with lots of enthusiasm from the reader and participation, the program was engaging and familiar for all kids who attended. You could tell that the regulars really looked forward to it from the moment they sat down. The computer stations with games and stories easy enough for my 3 year old to navigate was mesmerizing for the kids and they did not want to leave for the next program. Luckily, bribery always works!
Start with Art at the Met is a regular program at the Met, that involves storytelling, singing, sketching and walking through galleries together with an instructor to bring the art to life for kids ages 3 to 6. It was absolutely memorable and enjoyable. We ventured out towards Dutch paintings with the group and sat in the gallery to discuss shapes, perspective, and expression. The kids were engaged, as the animated instructor passionately pointed out nuances that kids wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. It was amazing to see how the young ones followed along, taking inspiration from this centuries old painting and using their own interpretations to create modern artworks on pads with crayons using familiar shapes of triangles, rectangles and lines. Although we spent just an hour there, the kids left feeling filled up with such rich new understandings – the feeling of feeling well fed from a really great lecture. It was satisfying.
Although you would expect that the Metropolitan Museum of Art would cater to mostly adults, it’s a trek worthy destination for even the youngest art lovers. I was so impressed by a new side of the Met I have never experienced before. The museum that I loved from my younger years, now has a brand-new meaning to me as a parent and I appreciate it more than ever before.