Saturday, October 10, 2015

A family-centric review of the New Whitney Museum

Activity 1:  We made our own paper sculpture inspired by the wooden sculpture in the background

We love love love the new Whitney!  So far, it's amazingly family-friendly and I just hope it stays that way.  It's been so wonderful since the museum opened a few months ago that I've wonder if it's too good to be when stores have a grand opening and all the cashiers are super friendly the first weekend and then they all go back to being disgruntled employees once the shop has been open for a while.  I hope the new Whitney keeps up the good work because we are very happy members of the museum right now.

The new Whitney Museum is family-friendly in that....

-The guards don't immediately yell at the top of their lungs if your child goes within five feet of a piece of art.  They politely and quietly ask you to step back, please, and their compassionate tone is appropriate for children, not criminals.

-It seems like half of the new Whitney Museum outside with its outdoor galleries and observation decks.  Visiting the museum feels like an indoor/outdoor experience and the city becomes part of the art.  Kids don't feel trapped!

-We have been to open studio for families at least five times and the teachers and staff have been very friendly and informed about art each time.  At the Met or MoMA, you're scolded and it feels like the teachers are doing kids a favor.  At the new Whitney, it feels like they've really been trained to work with children and the teachers are specifically trained in art education.  

-There's a general vibe from staff (from the door staff to security guards) that families are welcomed at the new Whitney, not that strollers or children are an inconvenience or a nuisance.  Clearly, it's coming from the top and trickling down that the Whitney wants to welcome families with open arms.  This kind of friendly environment absolutely doesn't happen accidentally.  And the old Whitney certainly didn't have the same environment, so something positive changed. 

OK, so about Whitney Wees, the program for 4 to 5-year olds!  We have taken two classes and I'm not sure if we'll do any more unless we know who the teachers are.  Our first experience was amazing (where I signed up for every future Whitney Wees program I could) and the second was extremely disappointing (where I felt embarrassed that I had invited my friend's family to join us).

Our first Whitney Wees class, taught by Queena, was age-appropriate and engaging and fun for kids and parents alike.  We were given three simple art projects to that complemented the works we were looking.  The language that Queena used was great for kids and she was able to get everyone, including parents, happily participating.  And we didn't sit in one place too long...we talked about the piece, did the art project and talked about that and then moved along a few minutes later.  The second class, taught by Barbara, was exactly like a lecture for art history college students and everyone was restless.  I'm sure Barbara is a wonderful docent, but teaching 4-year olds isn't her strength.  

So, my only point is that you really don't know what you're going to get.  Maybe that will change.  Hopefully the classes will become more consistent.  As a member, it was only $5 for the class and our family still got something out of that second class.  But, I invited a friend and the parents essentially paid $55 for the class because they paid to get into the museum and then the class fee.  The only reason they came is because I had talked about how amazing the first class was.  I feel like I personally wanted to refund my friend's money to them because they couldn't even stay to check out the museum that day...they were just there for the class.

Anyway, we still love the new Whitney Museum.  We've let our MoMA membership lapse, although not on purpose, but the Whitney is our new favorite Manhattan destination.

With that, here is a photo review of our first, awesome Whitney Wees experience.  (Ask for Queena!)  Also, I've posted pictures from printing in open studio the same day.

Activity 2:  We used pipe cleaners to make our own wire sculpture

After Whitney Wees, we made block prints in Open Studio (free with admission)

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