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Two Museums

Thinking It Through

Two Museums

Rockwell Kent painting at the Bennington Museum
Rockwell Kent painting at the Bennington Museum

Over Labor Day, I went on a mini-vacation with my son and husband. 

We didn't travel far - we spent one night in Williamstown, Mass., just down the road from the contemporary art museum MASS MoCA, and one night in Bennington, Vt., which put us in close proximity to the Bennington Museum and the Bennington Battlefield. 

One of our happy discoveries is that our son, now 20 months old, likes museums.

There's a lot for him to see and do, and both MASS MoCA and the Bennington Museum seemed to welcome families, providing special places for kids to hang out and exhibits that, while not exactly geared toward kids, might be of interest to them. 

At MASS MoCA, the long-running retrospective of wall drawings by the artist Sol LeWitt proved to be especially engaging for my son. These big, colorful pieces immerse visitors in a vibrant, sometimes dazzling world, and my son enjoyed walking from room to room and taking it all in. 

He had an even better time at the museum's Kidspace, where we borrowed a box of crayons and some paper and let him scribble away. He can color and draw at home, of course, but there was something special about making art in an art museum. 

I've been to MASS MoCA a number of times, but I'd never been to the Bennington Museum. 

It is, I discovered, a gem - a mix of history and art, with a special room where children can play with old-fashioned toys, explore an old-fashioned schoolhouse and visit a old-fashioned kitchen and general store. My son loved this room, and we loved watching him push around an old stroller and handle vintage metal toys. 

The Bennington Museum isn't huge, but the richness of its exhibits makes it a place to linger and enjoy. 

Despite driving through Bennington approximately 1,000 times over the past 10  years, this trip marked my first introduction to the museum's impressive collection of Grandma Moses paintings. 

This very informative exhibit highlighted the painter's local connections, her unusual life story - she didn't begin painting until she was in her seventies - and her artwork, which is more complex and interesting than it might initially seem.

Other highlights were Color Fields, an exhibit on the abstract, color-based artwork produced by artists at Bennington College in the 1960s, and Fields of Change, an exhibit on 1960s social movements in Vermont. 

One of the weekend's big lessons is that you don't have to travel very far to visit great museums, see great artwork and enjoy great scenery.

That our son was welcomed and entertained everywhere we went pretty much guarantees we'll be back. 

Got a comment? Email me at [email protected]