Last week Addison and I visited the Addison Gallery of American Art on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. It was not our first visit to the gallery – we love it because of the great artwork, the proximity to our home, and the free admission.
Kendra and I love taking Addie to art museums – it’s something we enjoy, and we’re hoping to instill a similar love in our kids. In London, we visited the Tate Modern; in Paris, the Louvre; in St. Louis, the St. Louis Art Museum; in Nashville, the Nashville Art Museum housed in the Parthenon. Closer to home she’s been to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Wenham Museum, the Museum of American Bird Art, and MASS MoCA.
Each experience has been wonderful – yet the Addison holds its own. Gifted in 1931 by Andover alum Thomas Cochran, the museum serves as a teaching and learning resource for the students and faculty at Phillips Academy as well as the surrounding community of Greater Boston. In addition to a small library, the newly renovated building includes an incredible learning space.
The permanent collection houses over 17,000 pieces of American art from the 18th century to now (including many of my favorites – Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Jackson Pollock, Eadweard Muybridge, and Dawoud Bey). Exhibitions are installed in the first two floors, while the basement level houses scale models of famous ships connected with the history of the United States – a great hit with little ones.
I like to let Addie lead the way when we are in museums. I find it makes the museum experience (regardless of the type of museum) more enjoyable. When we arrived, Addie was drawn to the portraits hanging in the first floor. She looked at several paintings while I asked her what she liked, and what she saw. She quickly decided that she was not a fan of the paintings, turned on her heels, and led me upstairs and to the left.
Spotting couches, she plopped down and began observing the other museum-goers. She was particularly interested in an older gentleman who was sketching in a journal. I explained what he was doing, and then pulled out our sketchbooks and pencils. Addie was elated, and set to work. Using a landscape painting for inspiration, I began my sketch. While we were drawing, one of the museum’s guards came over and encouraged Addie to keep practicing her art so she could be an artist when she grew up. (I was touched by his friendliness and positive encouragement. Not all museums are so welcoming to little ones – yet another reason we love the Addison Gallery!)
Curious about what I was drawing, Addie asked why I was sketching trees and mountains. I explained that I liked the painting across from us, and was using it to create my work. She liked that idea, and furiously began drawing shapes in her sketchbook. Bewildered, I asked her what she was drawing. She replied, “Mama, I am using the shapes on the ceiling as my inspiration.” I looked up – yup, there were shapes up there I’d never really given a second thought to…
When she was done, she approached the sketching man and peered at his sketchbook. (We are still working on a healthy fear of strangers, but she was with me, and knows I wouldn’t let her approach someone I deemed dangerous.) He sweetly asked her if she’d like to take a peek at his work, and she nodded fervently. He then showed her a sketch he’d done earlier, and sent her off on a scavenger hunt to find his inspiration. It wasn’t long before she identified the Hopper painting that had been his muse. After admiring Hopper’s art, she returned to her new friend to give a full report. He showed her his sketch again, and explained what he wished he’d done differently. She listened intently, and I was so grateful for his kindness and patience with my little three-year-old.
We said our goodbyes, and continued to explore the second floor. Addie found an etching by Frank Stella that she proclaimed was her favorite piece in the museum. I asked her what she liked, and she replied, “all the lines!!!”
We moved on to another exhibit, and Addie once again asked to sketch. We set to work, and she began drawing fish. I can only assume she was inspired by the water running under the bridges in the surrounding artwork.
As the museum began closing, we headed to the basement for a quick bathroom break and a peek at the model ships. It was a short (45 minute) visit, but well worth our time. If you haven’t been to the Addison yet, make sure to check it out, and bring the kids!
Disclaimer: As an Andover alum, I am quite partial to the museum as I have fond memories of visiting during my high school days! And no, we did not name Addison after the gallery ;)
Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Sunday, 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays, national holidays, December 24, and the month of August.
Directions & Parking
The museum is located at 3 Chapel Avenue in Andover, MA. Parking is available along Chapel Ave., as well as on nearby Bartlett Street.
From Rt. 93N: Take exit 41, turn right onto Rt. 125, go 2 miles. Turn right onto Rt. 28 north, go about 3 miles and turn right onto Chapel Avenue. The museum is the first building on the right.
From Rt. 495 N: Take exit 41A “Andover” and proceed south on Rt. 28 through the town of Andover. In approximately one mile, turn left onto Chapel Avenue. The museum is the first building on the right.
From Rt. 495 S: Take exit 41 “Andover/Lawrence,” go right at end of ramp, and proceed south on Rt. 28 through the town of Andover. In approximately one mile, turn left onto Chapel Avenue. The museum is the first building on the right.