Museum Adventures: Mead Art Museum

From Mead to You: Making Learning Connections at the Mead Art Museum

Experience, investigate, and explore world-class art and hidden treasures at Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum. In July, families can travel the world without ever leaving the area through the Mead’s family workshops and open house days. Enjoy art-making, guest performances, tours, and more—all of it free and open to all.

Search for secret doors in a seventeenth-century paneled room. Puzzle over a cuneiform inscription that praises a powerful Assyrian king. Marvel at a hanging sculpture spinning in a still gallery.

Visitors to the Mead Art Museum do so much more than see objects—at the Mead, art is experienced, investigated, and explored. Set on Amherst College’s beautiful main quadrangle and flanked by a fascinating, stand-alone stone steeple, the Mead offers a world of resources for connecting art across countless cultures, mediums, and eras.

Just as its south-up, equal-area map (on permanent display in the Kunian gallery) turns traditional worldviews “upside-down,” the Mead provides learning opportunities that encourage creative thinking and a global, culturally-aware approach to art history. 
This month, families can travel the world without ever leaving Amherst through a new July series of free Family Workshops. Globetrotting participants will trek through space and time—from Monet’s Paris to ancient Egypt to Imperial China—while identifying universal themes in artistic traditions from three different continents.

Family journeys continue throughout the year with frequent Meet at the Mead community open house days, which invite curious explorers of all ages to enjoy tours, art-making, special guest performances, and more while getting a closer look at current exhibitions.

During the academic year, schools and families can embark on personalized voyages of discovery by participating in guided educational programs. Students might spend a morning examining Persian seal stones, admiring Robert Henri’s dramatic use of light and color, or sketching a story set in a dreamlike Diego Rivera desert scene. Using an interactive, inquiry-based teaching style, Mead educators lead K-12 students to think critically, work together, and share their own ideas and insights about everything from painting to pottery. Teachers are welcome to choose from themed programs or request a custom tour structured to fit a class’s curriculum.

A lively combination of seasonal installations and permanent displays ensures that each visit to the Mead includes new discoveries as well as old favorites. Returning visitors can immerse themselves in Hudson River School landscapes or peer at the details on a Roman sarcophagus on every trip to the Mead, while each semester offers a number of innovative temporary exhibitions.

Opening in late August 2015, the major fall exhibition Intersecting Color: Josef Albers and His Circle reveals an entrancing world of shape and hue, providing a launching point for interdisciplinary discussions of art, science, and vision. Another upcoming exhibition carries visitors from Earth to the moon through a collection of nighttime images in paintings and prints, and a new installation features stone objects from around the world.

The next time you visit Amherst College, keep an eye out for the signature steeple and make the Mead your journey’s end: adventure awaits! To learn more about the Mead’s upcoming events and exhibitions, visit


Keely Sarr

Keely Sarr is the Assistant Museum Educator at the Mead Art Museum, where she coordinates K-12 and community education; manages the Team Mead student ambassador program; and takes great delight in seeing visiting classes’ first reactions to the Rotherwas Room. The Mead is part of Museums10, a collaborative of ten museums in the heart of western Massachusetts. To celebrate their 10th anniversary in 2015, Museums10 members are writing a monthly column in Hilltown Families about all there is to explore and discover in their collections.

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