Founded in 1870, the Museum of Modern Art has over one million visitors per year. According to Boston USA’s website, the MFA is the city’s third most visited museum, with people flocking to visit the fifty-three galleries with over five thousand pieces of art.
The MFA makes a point of being accessible to its visitors. Tours are available in English, French, Spanish, and American Sign Language, and admission is free to university students with college IDs. They also offer inclusive programs in which children with disabilities can learn about the artwork of different cultures. For college students on a budget, film festival tickets are available for $5 at the door.
At the MFA, visitors have the opportunity to participate in lectures, talks, performances, and even art classes. The museum offers courses in glass blowing, welding, sculpture, printmaking, and more, at all different levels.
For long-time visitors, there are still new ways to experience your favorite place.
“You might engage in what is being called the “Slow Art” movement which encourages people to spend extended periods of time, 10 or 15 minutes, with a single object,” said Linton Young, Senior Manager of Visitor Experience. He also recommends adding a new perspective to the mix by using an audio guide or bringing a child with fresh insight.
When I visited recently, the level of detail involved in every single piece of work overwhelmed me. As someone who loves the style, the MFA recharged my fashion inspiration. From handmade Egyptian jewelry to European evening dresses, each collection at the museum had something to offer me as a visitor. One marriage ring from the third century had the symbol of clasped hands and the word, “harmony” inscribed. A french formal dress with red and white embroidery hugged the mannequin perfectly as if made just one body. Jalyn Cox, who visited the MFA with me, loved the Summer of Love exhibition because of her passion for photography. We also adored comparing ourselves to the women in the portraits throughout The History of the Americas.
The museum is considered timeless because of the vast amount of history represented in just one building. “The oldest object in the MFA collection is a “Vessel in the Form of a Hare” that dates as far back as 6,400 BC. Just around the corner, a mere 14 steps away, is a painting by living artist Christoph Schmidberger acquired by the museum in 2006,” says Young. “Just 14 steps separate 8,406 years of human expression and creativity.”
Pixie Kolesa, first-year Visual and Media Arts student at Emerson College, loves to visit the MFA. “I think the MFA is timeless because it's timely. It houses a diverse collection of artwork, from the traditional western canon to oceanic art, but also shows modern art like the Murakami exhibit,” she says, referring to the current Takashi Murakami exhibit which features fun, cartoon-like Japanese art.“It gives a broad perspective on art,” she says.
Sometimes, Young points out, certain pieces of art are so special to visitors that coming once just isn’t enough. I felt that way about a particular beaded dress in the Egypt gallery. The history, along with the intricacy of the dress overwhelmed me. I imagined an Egyptian woman wearing the dress for a special occasion, and I imagined myself throwing it over jeans and a white t-shirt.
Currently, “Follow the North Star” is attracting audiences of all shapes and sizes with Inuit prints from Yousuf and Estrellita Karsh.
Kelosa’s favorite exhibition when she last visited was Showdown, which compares the work of Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Utagawa Kunisada. “The exhibit is breathtaking, it's Japanese art like you've never seen it before.” It ran from August through December 10th.
The museum can be overwhelming to novices, but that should not deter people from visiting.
Don’t feel like you have to conquer the museum in one day. The MFA is one of the largest in the United States, and it is a far-fetched goal to visit all of the collections. After all, visitors make connections with the art, and it is totally understandable to feel emotionally as well as physically drained after visiting. I walked thousands of steps, and I reflected on memories, and I looked forward to future creative experiences.
“The layout of the museum is maze-like for me,” says Kelosa. “If you need help finding something, ask. The employees are friendly, and it's better than getting lost in pre-Colonial art for twenty minutes- unless that's your intention.”
According to Young, the best time to visit is Thursday at 6pm. It is the perfect spot for a date night, or a quiet night by yourself.
Don’t forget to visit the gift shop on your way out. It houses some prints of your favorite pieces in the museum and some other great holiday present options. The book, American Fashion Art: 1960-1990 by Frederic A. Sharf and Susan Ward is on my list!
Go get lost in the Museum of Fine Arts, and find yourself tired, but inspired.
Art by: Eleanor Hilty