Portland Museum of Art (PMA)

See the ocean. Eat lobster. Find an outlet mall. Visit every museums within a one-hundred mile radius…

The Portland Museum of Art encourages visitors to explore its vast collection (which includes a historic house)

The Portland Museum of Art encourages visitors to explore its vast collection (which includes the historic house shown above)

Everyone has a different idea of what a vacation should entail. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your opinion) when you get two museum studies graduate students in a car and send them to New England, lots of museum-ing happens! On Day 3 of our journey, my classmate and I ventured to the Portland Museum of Art, better known as the PMA. Portland, which happens to be the largest city in the state of Maine, proved to be quite the experience!

The museum’s entrance opens into a large atrium space that was built in the early 1980’s. As you wind your way towards the back of the institution it becomes clear that additions have been made throughout the years. The “new” museum holds the majority of the displayed items, the “old” museum showcases mostly 19th century works, and a historic home (which is scantly interpreted but boasts its own unique elements) means you’ve come to the end of the line. The main atrium is three stories and allows gallery-goers to take a sneak peak of a the hustle and bustle below through various architectural cutouts.

Here are few of the highlights of the PMA, in my personal opinion:

The Lois Dodd was part of the modernist movement and came to the Maine coast for inspiration throughout her career

The museum does a great job of highlighting art and artists from Maine by incorporating them into the permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions.  Artist Lois Dodd was part of the modernist movement and came to the Maine coast for inspiration throughout her career

The architectural design of the museum allowed for the art experience to include social interactions as well as alone time spent pondering

The architectural design of the museum allowed for the art experience to include social interactions as well as alone time spent pondering. Multiple school groups utilized the gallery space, which proved to be an entertaining experience!

The museum's collection features a range of art works that explore themes of race, gender, language and sexuality. I appreciated the diversity of perspectives been showcased (and interpreted).

The museum’s collection features a range of art works that explore themes of race, gender, language and sexuality. I appreciated the diversity of perspectives been showcased (and interpreted). This piece, Untitled, is by conceptual artist Glenn Ligon.

The PMA's Family Space, located in the 19th century McLellan House, is currently home to the Design Lab. The interactive design lab is based on an architectural exhibit in the museum and allows children to become designers and creators of the buildings of tomorrow!

The PMA’s Family Space, located in the 19th century McLellan House, is currently home to the Design Lab. The interactive design lab is based on an architectural exhibit in the museum and allows children to become designers and creators of the buildings of tomorrow!

Just an additional comment on the Design Lab – what a great way to utilize a historic space! I felt that the Portland Art Museum was going above and beyond to think of innovative ways to engage their family audience. In addition to the Family Space pictured above, most of the permanent galleries included a Stop and Look station full of iPod recordings and creative activities meant to spark questions about the art and art making in general. There was even a family-centered cell phone tour! What ways have you seen art museums (or other museums for that matter) engage family audiences with programs, installations, and exhibitions?

 

 

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About catebay

Informal educator working in the world of art. Interests in public programming and community advocacy. Loves learning about people, collecting blue mason jars, and consuming Swedish fish.
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