Host Families and au pairs often have time to travel on short day-trips. Here is a great one to try!
The Berkshires of Massachusetts are a short 3 hour drive from my Rhode Island home, but a beautiful ride well worth the $1.60 toll on the Mass Pike! This area of Massachusetts is dotted with little college towns like my favorite, Northampton, as well as low-lying valley villages like another favorite, North Adams, where church steeples are so numerous they call it Steepletown!
There is a great art movement in this creative and nature-filled paradise just 90 minutes from New York City or Boston, and only 10 minutes from Vermont or New York State. A great place to view some of this art is the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, also known as MASS MoCA. My kids thought it would have something to do with coffee, but everything is not as it appears. There are, however, 140,000 square feet of gallery space within a collection of old 19th century factory buildings, the original home of the Arnold Printworkds (1860-1942) and later Sprague Electric (1942-1985). Given the huge size, various buildings, and sheer amount of ground to cover, I might recommend their guided tour. Since we had a couple of small children in tow, we didn’t stop to hear all the audio podcasts, but truly enjoyed the contemporary nature of the varied exhibits. This is really nothing like a traditional museum in that there are really no gallery rooms filled with row after row of framed artwork. Rather, there are huge installations of contemporary pieces that lend themselves to the interpretation of the individual imagination. The kids may have appreciated that aspect slightly more than the traditional-minded adults in our group.
MASS MoCA includes the kids in their creative center too, with a space just for them called Kidspace. The current exhibit, It’s Only Human, showcases the work of two artists, plus the kids can order items (free) from the ART BAR to play with, explore and create their own pieces related to the current exhibit. Our kids were offered doctor kits, paint and paper, and a brain-making craft, among others. It’s Only Human features British artist Nick Veasey, who uses x-rays to create art and show an appreciation of our own inner beauty which the artist calls more than skin-deep. Born in the UK, artist Marilene Oliver is also featured. She uses CT and MRI scan images to create 2- and 3-D art to present the dualities of internal versus external forms of our bodies. The art was definitely contemporary and sometimes abstract in nature, but a fascinating walk through some of today’s most creative artistic minds.
The adult exhibits were equally fascinating and abstract. We enjoyed walking through the aged factory, which has been updated for the gallery space but still retains that true feeling of the olden days. Our highlight may have been our visit to and walk up the terrifying heights of a grated walkway through and above the Boiler House. At the top (well, we didn’t go to the tippy top) there is a vintage 1960s Airstream camper with a one-of-a-kind view of the factory, the river, and nearby mountains.
When you have a chance, take the drive to the Berkshires and visit MASS MoCA with your family and au pair. Unique and thought-provoking, this collection of contemporary art could spark the imagination of both young and old. As always, contact me with your comments and questions. I look forward to helping your family find a cultural childcare experience with Go Au Pair!