February 23, 2012

field trip: children's museum for the arts

You know the frustration that comes when you find something GREAT at the end of a vacation? Something that would have made life easier, your trip more pleasant, you time there even better and you just want to kick yourself for not finding it sooner? Well, that was me, yesterday.
The Children's Museum for the Arts is a little gem of a kid friendly space tucked down in SoHo near absolutely nothing. You wouldn't' just happen to pass it because it's not really on the way to anything. We've been going to indoor soccer a block away from it for months and never realized it was there (darn it!) and the only reason we found it at all is that Briton's class in stop action filmmaking has been moved there for the next few weeks.

I'm sure it's in the guide books. It's probably listed in all of those books on my shelf that I gathered when we were moving here. I've probably flipped by the page with its entry a few dozen times. The thing is, there are SO MANY MUSEUMS HERE. (Poor me, I know) I'm almost positive I read the name and dismissed it as just another art museum. I'll get around to it. In the meantime there is the Met and the Guggenheim and the Rubin and MOMA and and and.
If it were me, writing those guidebooks, I wouldn't call it the Children's Museum for the Arts, I'd call it If Your Kids Like Any Kind of Art GO HERE! or Do Not Skip This One! I keep thinking of all those too rainy, too hot, too cold, too windy days when we didn't go anywhere because what we needed was a place where wiggly, active kids could be creative and loud and squirmy, something that is in short supply in the city.

Staffed by "Teaching Artists" the place is filled with slightly nutty, exuberant young artists who are experts at guiding kids without doing the art for them. I was amazed at how patient they were, especially given the school's out for the week crowd that was there yesterday. Briton disappeared into the film studio and spent the whole day working on different kinds of animation (it was dark, I couldn't take pictures in there, but he was there, trust me) while Evie visited most of the art studios and stations, trying out watercolors, acrylics, puppet making, clay sculpture, dry erase crayons (I didn't even know they existed!), pastels, stamps and probably some other things that I'm forgetting.
Aside from being a ton of fun, the museum is just plain well run, well thought out. It is virtually impossible to loose your child in it because of the layout. Even with two kids doing two very different activities I didn't feel worried that I might loose one. They had places to leave your coat (thank you!) and free bags to carry home your art (Thank you! thank you!) and benches scattered around with interesting art and information about the art so that the grownups can sit now and then. They also had a quiet room, which we didn't use, and a ball pit full of yoga balls for getting the wiggles out between art projects - we did use that one.

The only downside of the day - other than the fact that my camera battery ran out twenty minutes in and I had no camera - is that I really wish I had known about this place earlier. Not that we are leaving tomorrow, but oh, so many times that we could have used a space to go and spend the day painting and sculpting and gluing buttons onto socks and launching ourselves into a pile of giant balls. Ah well.

If you are bringing children to New York, I would highly recommend it. And if, while you are there, you happen to pass a food truck called Frites and Meats, stop for some fries with wasabi mayo because, YUM, those were good too.