An American Weekend: The Norman Rockwell Museum
We celebrated Labor Day weekend here in New England with family. We had a full house and more than our fair share of Bub’s BBQ to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday and his retirement, a bit belatedly but with full fan fare. We planned a family trip to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. Sadly my little ones were a bit under the weather, but my oldest and I went along with the rest of the extended family to enjoy the museum.
I was a bit concerned that my 11 year old boy child would be bored at this museum. He had begun giving me that sullen look, hoping he could fake illness. It was too late for that though. He’d already eaten heartily and bounced around the house. It was a sunny day and with the promise of a Berkshire chocolate shop hidden in my back pocket, we forged ahead. Nothing ventured, nothing gained; all the same, I was happy to see the museum admits guests under 18 for free, so I didn’t have to venture much, just the journey. I will say that again, in case you missed it: children under 18 free, all of them! Thank you, Norman Rockwell Museum. Taking kids to a museum is hard. Parents want to do it. We want to do it well, which means doing it often and in short spurts that kids can tolerate. Allowing kids into an art museum for free not only welcomes kids but encourages families to try it out, see if it can work.
The museum itself is lovely. It rotates art from its collection of Rockwell’s works. We were able to see some of his later, more political work, which was new to me, as well as the traditional pieces that I think of when I think of Norman Rockwell, such as the Four Freedoms. I was pleased to see Isaac and his fellow 11 year old cousin getting the jokes and jabs as we perused all the Saturday Evening Post covers, more than a lifetime’s work.
The Museum goes out of its way to make itself a family friendly place. In addition to admitting all kids up to age 18 in for free, they provide an art space where kids can make their own Saturday Evening Post covers to hang on the wall. Isaac and my niece were more interested in the scavenger hunt through the upstairs galleries. All the grown-ups had fun with that one, spying fishing poles, paintbrushes and other items all through the paintings in the upstairs galleries. Even better we enjoyed explaining to the kids all the old fashioned looking stuff they saw in the pictures: big box shaped cameras, wired telephones, antennae radios, and old-fashioned train cars that included dining rooms. We were able to visit the preserved studio space of Rockwell himself, which had been moved from Stockbridge to the Museum grounds. Isaac, cousin and uncle all enjoyed roaming the grounds and clambering over the sculptures.
The museum was crowded. I felt happy to have ventured forth on such an American holiday to celebrate some very American art. Chocolate Springs awaited! Since my husband is an illustrator, and because I truly think my younger children will enjoy the art, we are planning a full family trip back that way soon. I’m sure it is just lovely at Christmas time.
Norman Rockwell Museum is located on 36 park-like acres in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Rockwell’s hometown for the last 25 years of his life. The Museum is open year-round. From May through October, hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; from November through April, hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Rockwell’s studio is open May through October, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (not wheelchair
accessible). Children and teens 18 and under are admitted free year-round. Visit the Museum online at www.nrm.org. (Photo by Art Evans. ©Norman Rockwell Museum)
- Related post: A Family Guide to Norman Rockwell
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4, leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out. She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.