A Favorite with School Groups: New Orleans Museum of ArtMay 21, 2011 No Comments
Founded as the Delgado Museum of Art in 1911, the New Orleans Museum of Art is one of several attractions in New Orleans’ City Park. Although the park took heavy damage in 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, the elevated museum suffered only basement flooding and most of the collection was undamaged. The museum features over 40,000 pieces of art as well as a five-acre sculpture garden. Dad and I visited during the museum’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2011.
Visiting the New Orleans Museum of Art
As of 2011, admission to the museum is $10 for adults and $6 for children aged 7 to 17. Seniors, military members and students with ID pay $8, while children 6 and under are free. The sculpture garden is free to all except for designated special events. Every Wednesday is Free Day, on which everyone is invited to visit the museum at no charge. Free parking is readily available in a massive lot in front of the museum as well as throughout City Park. The museum is open 10 to 5 Tuesday through Sunday.
Friday evenings from 5 to 9, the museum hosts a special collection of programming called “Where Y’Art?” Children’s activities, music concerts and guest speakers are among the available options. Check the museum website for details.
We visited on a Free Wednesday, expecting the museum to be packed. While there were a number of other visitors, they were spread fairly evenly throughout the building. We never felt cramped or had any difficulty examining things in depth.
We arrived around 11 a.m. and stayed until closing. It would be possible to take a quick tour in a few hours, but art buffs should plan to spend the day. The collection runs the gamut from prehistory through today in a variety of media. You will find works by household names such as Picasso and Degas alongside those of lesser-known, but no less talented, local artists.
Due to arthritis, Dad generally prefers to take the elevator rather than the stairs. Particularly in older buildings, we often find the elevator tucked into a corner, away from the main action. Imagine our surprise when we reached the second floor only to have the elevator doors open directly in front of a massive Asian sculpture!
The first-floor Courtyard Café is run by the legendary Brennan family, chef-owners of such noted New Orleans spots as Brennan’s and Commander’s Palace. The counter-service food is homemade using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and is surprisingly inexpensive. This is a wonderful way to introduce your kids to fine dining without making them sit through a long, formal meal.
Free children’s activities are frequently offered at the museum. For kids with a deeper interest in art, the museum sponsors a variety of day camps and special events. New Orleans school children generally visit the museum in the spring as an educational field trip. Contact the museum to find out what is going on during your stay.
The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden features over 60 sculptures set along winding footpaths and City Park’s noted waterways. We actually saw the bulk of the Sculpture Garden during our cruise on NOLA Gondola, but all sculptures are accessible by foot as well. A small donation is requested, but not required, for the self-guided tour map or audio tour. Yoga and Pilates classes are taught in the garden on Saturdays for a nominal charge.
A large gallery on the first floor is set aside for temporary exhibits. During our visit, the work of 17th century Zen Master Hakuin was featured. His calligraphy used a fascinating blend of humor and philosophy to examine the human condition. A documentary at the beginning of the exhibit explained a bit about Hakuin’s life and times, setting the stage for his work.
That exhibit has since closed, and the space is currently used for “Ancestors of Congo Square,” a celebration of African art that runs through mid-July 2011. It is not yet known what will replace that exhibit.
Tips for Parents
The New Orleans Museum of Art is much bigger than it appears. It is easy to get lost in the winding galleries, so keep a close eye on your kids. City Park offers wonderful opportunities to rest in the shade or run and play, so schedule frequent breaks from the museum. Although the extensive collection is truly amazing, the sheer quantity of art can become overwhelming.
Be sure to stop by the first-floor gift shop. Packed with souvenirs for all ages, including a massive collection of art books, the gift shop is worth a visit even if you do not plan to buy anything.