Want to introduce the kids to some iconic art, but not quite ready for the trek to the MET or MOMA? This stately institution at the top of Montclair’s busy downtown is a must for families. Visit before June 18 to see the phenomenal Matisse and American Art exhibit, which features not only paintings by the French master, but works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Mark Rothko—all of whom were inspired by Matisse. One of our favorites is a piece by Henri Matisse’s great-granddaughter, who created her interpretation of his famous work “The Conversation.”
More to Explore
You’ll also want to explore the free exhibits inspired by Matisse: Selected Works from the Collection and Janet Taylor Pickett: The Matisse Series. In the first, curators pulled from their vast permanent collection to find a wide array of artists who were influenced by the painter. The Pickett gallery has work from the one-time NJ resident, who’s known for using her art as a metaphor for one’s identity.
The museum is always rotating new exhibits and items from its extensive collection, so you won’t see the same pieces twice. Curators also work with high schools to feature work by talented NJ teens that are then submitted to national competitions.
And there’s plenty more than art here, too. MAM is chock-full of year-round educational programs for every medium you can imagine. Learn watercolor, iPhone photography, glass jewelry-making and even sketch comedy writing. There are also weekly camps for kids, plus workshops and outdoor events on the lawn. A visit to the drop-in studios along with park bench talks with the museum staff are included with admission.
Kids’ Parties and Date Nights
A converted ice cream truck travels to festivals and private birthday parties. Plan a visit without the kids to try your hand at one of MAM’s year-round art classes, including a very popular Wine and Wheel class that teaches couples to throw pottery (just like a scene out of the movie Ghost). Pro tip: Make your reservations way in advance, since this event sells out fast.
Best of all? Turn family night into date night on Free First Thursday nights, when there’s no charge for admission. Sign the kids up for a class at the Creativity Center so they can do a hands-on project (for a small fee), while you head upstairs to enjoy the full-service bar, listen to live music, munch on food truck snacks and meet some of the museum’s featured artists.
Not sure how to talk to your kids about art? Pick up some guides about the pieces they’re seeing, complete with look-and-find prompts that encourage little artists to draw their own versions of each masterpiece. Download the app, so you can listen to info about the paintings on your phone. If the kids get antsy, take them to the Learning Lab on the third floor, which is decked out to look like Matisse’s Red Studio and lets them cut and draw in an interactive art space. Don’t forget to snag an information sheet with tips on where to stow your stroller and find changing tables and snacks.