There’s something to be said about treading off the beaten path. Last week my GD1 class went on a field trip to the Cooper Hewitt Museum. My experience there was one of the best I’ve ever had in a museum or gallery. The interactive experience using stylus pens to gather information about the different pieces of art gives the museum a certain type of engaged energy that I have never felt before walking around another gallery. It excites you to know that you have a personal well of information waiting for you online regarding the pieces you both liked and created. However, that wasn’t the only reason I found my experience there so enjoyable. Now, It may have to do with the time we went, or the fact it was a rainy day, or it may just be that, as far as I know, the Cooper Hewitt is slightly less well known to tourists than museums like the MOMA and the MET, but it was quiet and relatively empty. The calm and lack of crowds, for me, made the experience that much more enjoyable. You can walk around and your own pace and take your time reading and learning about the things you’re looking at.
Fast forward to about two hours later, and as we art students do, I found myself in the MOMA where the environment and the experience was the complete opposite to that of the Cooper Hewitt. Granted the MOMA is a large tourist destination in New York, This was 11 am on a Wednesday. It was overcrowded, with massive lines, and a constant buzz of noise. The enjoyment that I had experienced while walking around the Cooper Hewitt was no longer. This type of crowd makes it very difficult to get a good look at the art, to appreciate it and to learn much about it. You’re constantly navigating around hundreds of people, making it difficult to stop and take in what you are looking, never mind reading anything about the art. It upsets me that my first thought when getting into an exhibit is “get me out of here.”
While the Cooper Hewitt is far from some secret, it does not have the same popularity as the MOMA. Don’t get me wrong, the MOMA has beautiful and inspiring works of art – when you can actually see them – but ducking slightly off the beaten track resulted in this awesome, educational, inspirational experience that is hard to get otherwise. But maybe I just don’t like crowds. Take it as a social experiment and find out what you like.