As summer temperatures heat up and parents look for places to cool down, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University offers a thoughtful spot to spend part of a day this summer.
The Durham museum, which features a permanent collection and special exhibitions, has a series of make-and-take craft programs during the summer months. And, on July 18, they'll launch a new program for caretakers and their babies. The program offers guided tours for adults with their young children, who are welcome to ride along in their stroller.
Right now, the museum's big traveling exhibition, "Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey," is a mid-career collection of the work of Mutu, who was born in Nairobi, Kenya, but lives and works in Brooklyn (where she also happens to be the mom of two young kids). It runs through July 21.
Her work focuses on large-scale collages. She uses everything from magazine pictures to contact paper to beads and other items you might pick up at your average craft store. There are thoughts here about consumerism, gender, race, war and more. And some of her figures come together with human, animal, machine and monster parts. It's not scary. In fact, my older daughter was really interested in the forms and finding the different materials she used within the pictures. Destination: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke this summer
The first gallery features a main work called "Suspended Play Time." Here you'll see dozens of balls made of twine and black garbage bags hanging from the ceiling. Children in Kenya often use these balls to play soccer and other sports.
Guards are a bit nervous about people getting very close to the exhibit, but museum goers are welcome to skirt the edges of "Suspended Play Time" carefully, moving around the balls without touching them, Wendy Hower, the Nasher's manager of marketing and communications, tells me. My girls really enjoyed this.
This week, the Nasher opened "The Human Position: Old Master Works from the Permanent Collection." This features 70 works of art spanning the 14th to the 16th centuries. They all are rarely on view. These aren't the works of household names, but they do offer a stark contrast between the modern art displayed in the Mutu exhibit and classic paintings, sculptures and other pieces. I got a preview of the exhibit about a week ago. There's a lot to look at here.
You'll find some surprising details in these very old pieces ... an owl in a tree stump, a human liver in a painting and eyeballs in a bowl of water, for instance.
"If your kids like to play I Spy, all of our exhibits are really fun for that game," Hower said. (My kids had a great time looking for all the cats and other animals in Mutu's collages as well).
Free morning and evening crafts have returned for the summer. The projects, designed for all ages, are inspired by Nasher's exhibitions. You'll be able to make felt faces, collages, paper bag flowers, accordion books and more. The programs started this week and run 10 a.m. to noon, Tuesdays, and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursdays (except July 4), through Aug. 18.
And at 11 a.m., July 18, the museum will start up a new program for moms, dads and caretakers and their very young children. The museum will offer guided tours of the exhibits for the parents. Babies and very young children are welcome to ride in strollers. Sounds like a great opportunity for a morning out.
For adults, the Nasher has a host of programs - book discussions, dinner and movie packages and more. Click here to check out their summer schedule.
Watch my video interview with Hower for more information and to see a bit of the Mutu exhibit.
Nasher makes it inexpensive for families to visit. Admission is $5 for adults and free for kids ages 15 and under.