Sculpture Gardens, Jazz Concerts and Philadelphia Artists: This Hotspot for the Arts Is the Perfect Day Trip
It’s true what they say — art is in the eye of the beholder. What you think of different pieces of artwork — and what you’re looking for in a trip to a museum — is unique to your experiences and tastes.
It’s this idea that is drawing Philadelphians to Woodmere Art Museum, a museum dedicated to showcasing the best of what past and contemporary Philadelphia artists have to offer in an engaging and multi-dimensional setting.
“We offer programs that invite the public to come and explore the museum in different ways,” says Hildy Tow, Woodmere’s Curator of Education.
Here’s what you need to know about Woodmere Art Museum — and what you should do to get the most out of your visit.
Something for Everyone
Making a plan of attack when going to a museum can be daunting. There’s a lot to see and do, and you might not be well-versed in the subject matter. However, whether you’re an art novice or have read up on your history, there’s something for you at Woodmere.
“All of the resources and classes and programs that we offer serve to integrate art into your life,” Tow says. “We can tailor tours and programming to your specific interests.”
One highlight of the museum is the outdoor sculpture garden that occupies six acres of grounds — you don’t need to pay for admission to see it, and it serves as an introduction to what you’ll find inside. Officially titled WOW! Woodmere’s Outdoor Wonder, the artwork was carefully chosen to be seen in the context of the features and natural surroundings of the museum’s grounds.
One of Woodmere’s many initiatives includes starting conversations around the connection between art and the environment. The sculpture gardens encapsulate this mission. And if you’re looking to learn more about the sculptures while there, Woodmere has QR codes around its grounds for visitors to scan to learn more about what they’re seeing and the story behind a specific piece of art.
The gardens are also fun for the whole family — parents and children can take in the sculptures, and kids can run around the grounds and explore the pollinator and hugel gardens while winding through a path that meanders through the landscape around the museum. Once you’re ready to go inside, admission for adults is $10 and kids get in free. On Sundays, admission is free for everyone.
“There’s always something fun going on at Woodmere and ways to engage with the artwork,” Tow says.
A Taste of Local Flavor at Woodmere
At Woodmere, the spotlight is on local artists. The work exhibited is produced by artists who lived or currently reside in and around Philadelphia.
“Our mission is to tell the story of Philadelphia art and artists,” Tow says. “We’re building not just a story about artists, but a story about Philadelphia from the 1700s to now.”
As for the artwork, there are many different mediums to observe. A visit to the museum takes you through photography, paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and exhibition videos.
Woodmere’s Can’t-Miss Exhibitions
With its exhibits and programming, Woodmere cultivates an intimate experience designed for people of all ages. For instance, if you feel as though you’re not a museum person, you might be more interested in the Saturday night jazz concerts Woodmere holds on its grounds adjacent to its sculpture gardens, or its Tuesday night movie nights.
“For a relatively small museum, we have a lot of offerings,” Tow says. “We work to ensure programs will be of interest to a variety of audiences.”
And for those looking to explore Woodmere’s galleries, there are many different ways for you to take in the artwork displayed throughout. One constant at the museum is what’s known as the Woodmere Annual, a yearly juried exhibition of contemporary artists centered around a specific theme. This year’s theme of migration highlights a variety of works that explore the act of moving from one place to another, between man-made borders, physical and ancestral spaces and memories.
This year’s Annual, on view through August 29th, features the work of thirty-five artists working in videos, sculptures, painting, photography and collage. A sculpture of a miniature container ship that moves and lights up is a big hit, as is an-18-foot-long dream-like painting that was on display at the Philadelphia airport.
Exciting Times at Woodmere
This fall, Woodmere’s upcoming exhibition will showcase George Biddle: The Art of American Social Conscience. Biddle was a leading American artist whose work engaged with the human condition, in particular the social injustices he encountered in his journeys across the United States and abroad. He also helped form the mural project of the Works Project Administration through his long-standing friendship with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Through outside funding, the museum has also purchased a 19th-century mansion a block away that it plans to turn into multiple new gallery spaces that will increase its capacity to showcase its collection of close to 9,000 works of Philadelphia art.
This includes one of the largest collections of art by Violet Oakley, an artist who achieved international fame when she was commissioned to create a monumental series of murals for the Pennsylvania State Capitol at the turn of the 20th century. Now named the Frances M. Maguire Center for Art and Education, it will feature a hands-on children’s art education center, a museum café, and public programming spaces.
“Our exhibitions are very powerful,” Tow says. “Not only are they about Philadelphia artists, but they represent the rich diversity, history, and cultural traditions of the city. We really feel that there’s something at the museum for everyone.”This is a paid partnership between Woodmere Art Museum and Philadelphia Magazine's City/Studio