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Uncovering the Artist in You: Galleries Galore

Have you ever gone to an art museum and just sort of wandered through looking at each piece for a second or two, not really knowing what you were looking at? Did you visit an art museum in an attempt to hide from a sweltering summer afternoon or a snow-flurried day? Or perhaps you attempted to bring your date there to impress them, but ended up knowing nothing about art at all? Maybe all you found were art sculptures or paintings you couldn’t comprehend. If any of these have happened to you, I’m here to help. Hopefully you’ll get to enjoy your next visit to an art museum and give you the chance to finally impress that date of yours.

The following tips can help you understand how to go to a museum and get as much out of it as you can.

  1. You don’t have to see everything in the museum.

Some galleries are huge and you will just tire yourself out trying to see everything. Prioritize the things you want to see and stop at the other things that catch your eye on the way. You don’t have to stop and appreciate everything.

  1. There usually isn’t a deeper meaning that you are missing.

Many people don’t understand art and most times it has nothing to do with meaning. It’s about history more than anything. Some artwork is famous because it is famous and others are just because it’s old. You can usually learn something about the artist or the time period in which the art was created. There isn’t always a hidden meaning.

  1. Read the title and description that goes with the artwork.

You aren’t there to look smart and it is okay if you don’t know much about what you are seeing. Reading the description or artist statement will help you understand the history or what the artist is trying to portray and can help you form an opinion about the art.

Next, I went out around the Fox Cities and found some opportunities to view and create art. The first stop, located in downtown Appleton, is the Trout Museum of Art. Not only does this museum have great exhibitions, but some awesome classes for all ages to enjoy. If the brightly-colored LEDs on the building’s exterior don’t already intrigue you, wait until you get inside!

Although this museum is on the small side, the Trout Museum of Art has some great exhibits. This summer, there is a great exhibition with the art of animation! See “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and enjoy a tour until August 31. The upcoming exhibit, “Edward Curtis: Sacred Legacy,” is of the North American Indian experience photographed by Edward Curtis. This is an awesome way to learn and understand the North American Indian era of American history. This exhibit will be opening September 28. Don’t miss out on FOX CITIES’s exhibit as we will be displaying our photo contest winners at the Trout Museum through August 31. Surely, this is a non-threatening way to check out some art since these are amateur photographers and not professional artists. There will also be a Creative Kids Art show on the 5th floor during August. The museum will be on a brief hiatus September 1-27 to reset the gallery for the next exhibit.

How much do you enjoy art classes? The Trout Museum of Art has many classes offered during weekday mornings and afternoons for young children, teens and adults. The classes range in many different mediums. Of course, there is a price to cover the class and materials, but it’s definitely worth it. Melissa Haen, marketing manager at the museum, gave a couple tips on enjoying the art classes. Here’s what she said, “Ask lots of questions, don’t be afraid to make mistakes (sometimes they’re the best part!), and have fun!”

When wandering the gallery, Melissa suggests remembering these three words: See, Think, Wonder. She says this means to take lots of pictures of yourself with the art, and ask the gallery staff about their favorite bits of trivia they have learned.

The Bergstrom-Mahler Museum in Neenah is another neat place to check out. This museum has beautiful and eye-catching glass work as well as a super impressive gift shop. Also, take some tours as they are offered for youth and adults to explore the museum. For youth, there are tours to see how glass and paperweights are made. Adult tours are offered for groups that want a guided tour where collections can be viewed. There are also self guided tours.

Jan Smith, executive director at the museum, suggests stopping at the front desk for an overview and getting a little history when you arrive. Take a look at the temporary exhibit and Google the artists you like to see their background or a demo online. If there is a work on a pedestal, circle it if you can to get the full viewing effect. In the paperweight galleries, pick a few favorites and look closely at them, and in the Germanic glass gallery follow the chronology and look for what changes happen over the centuries.

Make sure to see the current exhibit, “This Just In!” which is a look at recent contemporary glass gifts to the museum collection from contemporary glass collectors. On the second floor is an amazing selection of art glass paperweights by artist Rick Ayotte and some by his daughter, Melissa. There is also a lovely exhibit of figurative works in glass, tiny paperweight buttons and an incredible collection of Germanic glass drinking vessels with the earliest piece dating from 1573. They are amazing, skillful, delicate, historic, reflective of their time, and in some cases, even humorous. They reflect 300 years of glassmaking history and technology.

The glass museum also offers some magnificent classes. The first Saturday of every month, families and visitors can drop in for Art Activity Day and make a glass object in the studio. The third Thursday of every month, visitors can come from 5 to 7 p.m. for a craft beer, music and often a creative costumed theme that provides a social time and discovery time in the galleries. When participating in a class, Smith says, “Relax, don’t feel threatened or uncreative and enjoy an atmosphere that is criticism-free to feel creative and successful. Find something new to try that you may not have tried before, or always wanted to try. Bring a friend for support. Don’t strive for perfection, but strive for confidence and skill. Be open to exploration – there is no judgment.”

There are more than just exhibits to see and events to attend at the Bergstrom-Mahler. Visitors can see collections of glass throughout the various galleries, relax on the second floor in comfy chairs and read glass related books as well as watch glassmaking videos, do a scavenger hunt through the galleries, enjoy the lakeside lawn and patio, or shop for unique handmade glass items in the museum shop that carries handmade objects from all over the world.  Smith says, “The museum provides a safe social space as well. It is a place to gather with friends or quietly contemplate. The social aspect is emphasized in the many educational offerings. People return because they feel successful.”

Here are a few more places to check out art in your local community: Richeson School of Art & Gallery in Kimberly, The Draw in Appleton, and The Hangup Gallery of Fine Art in Neenah. These places offer their own interesting art and classes as well. Try looking into some of the classes that are offered to learn new skills and brush up on old ones.

There are countless opportunities to involve yourself in the arts, especially if you love to travel. There is always amazing art scattered throughout cities and neat museums to check out. Even your local coffee shops usually have some unique or local art for sale. I hope that this post could give you a few options for something to do and start to uncover the inner artist in you.

Art communicates. It can give insight to culture or history. It can also surprise you, make you laugh, give you new ideas, or open you to a whole new world. Art has a story to tell, so give it a chance.

Let us know! Which class or museum did you check out that was your favorite? Leave a comment below.

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