Museum Adventures: Smith College Museum of Art

Surprise your Eyes at the Smith College Museum of Art

Where do you begin your Museum adventure? For many visitors to the Smith College Museum of Art, their first stop is to check out the artist-designed restrooms! Designed by artists Ellen Driscoll and Sandy Skoglund as functional—and permanent—works of art, each is unique and beautiful. A popular spot for selfies, the women’s restroom features works from the Museum’s collection reproduced in a blue underwater world through etched glass panels. In contrast to the cool hues and mermaid paradise of Driscoll’s women’s restroom, across the way Skoglund intended to create a space that would incorporate “patterning and visual sizzle.”  The men’s room is black and white from floor to ceiling, creating the sensory experience of stepping into an optical illusion. For the wall tiles, Skoglund used imagery based on global creation stories with the common theme of liquid origins. From the fixtures to the floors and even the toilet bowls and urinals, visitors are invited to be part of the art themselves through the use of these unforgettable spaces.

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The artist-designed restrooms are located on the lower level of the Museum, which has been a hub of activity this summer.  While the restrooms will remain untouched, extensive renovations to the rest of the floor are underway. When completed in October, the Museum’s gallery updates and improvements will offer new ways to experience and interact with SCMA’s treasured collection of exceptional art.

Don’t miss these highlights on a visit this fall: 

  • A Frank Stella painting the length of a school bus! Damascus Gate (Variation III) hasn’t been on view for many years, but the removal of a staircase during our summer renovation will  make space for this 40 foot wide painting
  • A new dedicated gallery for the display of Asian art
  • SCMA’s contemporary art collection back on view with old favorites and new global contemporary art spotlighted, including a New Media Gallery now adjacent to the artist-designed bathrooms
  • An interactive space called Talk Back: Art in Conversation, designed to create dialogue around works of art through visitor participation. The artworks will change regularly, so plan to return often to add your voice to the conversation
  • Redesign of a third floor gallery highlighting themes of Transformations in African art, with objects related to Women and Power as the subject of the first rotating installation.

And the galleries won’t be the only thing that’s new to many visitors: as of July 1, there will no longer be any charge for children 18 & under to visit the Museum. (The following will continue to be free: Any student with a college ID, Smith College faculty, staff, and their families; Five-College faculty and staff.) This change in admission cost structure reflects the Museum’s commitment to being family-friendly and accessible to all. This is a core value of the Museum that is reflected in our admission policy as well as in our K-12 school visit program (with bus subsidies available to defray the cost of transportation) and engaging series of multigenerational family programs like Second Fridays and biannual Family Days—all these opportunities are offered at no charge to participants.

Connect with us at the next Second Fridays at SCMA as the Museum stays open late for our monthly participation in Northampton’s Arts Night Out. It’s always free and always fun, with hands-on art making for all ages inspired by works on view (4-6pm), light refreshments (while they last), and at 6pm, a special opportunity for adult learners to join a guided conversation exploring a different work of art each month.  On August 14th, go beyond the canvas to explore the artistry of gilded frames in the galleries, then assemble and decorate a golden frame to take home.

And a Free Family Day on Saturday, November 7 will celebrate the “new SCMA” with activities from 12:30-3:30pm. Don’t miss the photo booth, button making, face painting, snacks, art making and more! Email for more information.

Find out more about these exciting programs and upcoming changing exhibitions at See you at the Museum!


Gina Hall

Gina is the Associate Educator for School and Family Programs at the Smith College Museum of Art. A Holyoke native, she recently relocated back to the Valley with her husband and six year old son after managing education programs in museums in Los Angeles for the past 14 years. Smith College Museum of Art 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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