Rembrandt in America is on exhibition at the North Carolina Museum of Art until January 22nd. Over 100,000 visitors have queued up to see the special exhibition of the Dutch Master’s works and the works of his proteges. On a recent sunny Friday morning I was fortunate enough to venture into the museum and enjoy the exhibition. However, it was on my walk from the car park to the museum where I was reminded of how much happens outside the North Carolina Museum of Art in the Museum Park.
Dipping temperatures may drive some activities indoors, but Carolina winters come with many balmy days. Where better to enjoy a mild winter day than the NCMA? Here art isn’t only meant to be enjoyed indoors hanging on a wall. Surrounded by approximately 160 acres of land consisting of forest, trails and creeks, the museum has taken art outside and combined it with nature. As the website states, ‘the Museum Park presents a unique setting to explore the intersection of art and nature.’
The amphitheater may be silent and the jumbo movie screen blank, but The Museum Park is where guests encounter striking commissioned works of art, sculpture, and more year-round. These works of art commissioned and coordinated with artists, designers and environmental scientists are inspired by the natural world. Each commissioned piece speaks to or studies environmental issues.
Bundle up on a crisp day and hike the walking trails. Listen to the peaceful natural sounds as crows call above while you journey along at your own pace discovering works of art and nature. Benches line the trails and provide a chance for rest and rumination. You can even access a tour on your cell phone. The Cell Phone Tour provided by Verizon permits visitors to call a designated number and hear the history and descriptions of the art.
There are 4 trails of varying difficulty and length. If you prefer to ride a bike, bring the stroller or use a motorized wheel chair – employ one of the paved trails winding through the park. Joggers, lunchtime walkers and small school groups also frequent the popular pathways. In addition, there are unpaved trails which welcome four legged walking partners but guests are reminded to please clean up after their dogs.
A gravel path winds behind the West Building leading to the Rodin Court and Garden. Here in this serene sanctuary NCMA visitors are treated to the largest collection in the Southeast of sculpture by Auguste Rodin. Thanks to the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation, amazing works by the foremost sculptor of the human body can be experienced in this preserve nestled amongst bamboo trees beside a placid pool of lilies.
Picnic tables dot the landscape as well. Bring a lunch and make the afternoon complete. There are tables outside the museum and located in a grove of trees behind and beyond the museum’s back parking lot. Picnic tables are available on a first-come first-serve basis.
If a warm meal is on your agenda stop inside the West Building. Iris, the Museum Restaurant named for museum benefactor Iris Cantor, serves lunch daily, dinner on Friday and a weekend brunch. For a quick lite meal drop by the Special Exhibition Cafe in the East Building.
Are you sticking to a budget? Visitors to the NC Museum of Art’s Museum Park will love the price. It’s free. Park in one of the free parking lots and take to the trails at no charge. The park is open daily year round from dawn to dusk and is patrolled by park staff and museum security.
Art is alive and waiting at the North Carolina Museum of Art but isn’t restricted to indoors. ‘The Museum Park presents a unique setting to explore the interplay of art and nature.’