What it is: The NCMA has a beautiful new building that houses a wide variety of art permanently on display as well as a yummy smelling cafe called Iris. However, on this visit my family was on a different mission. We had heard that there was a special children's picture book exhibit there featuring the work of Eric Carle, so we knew we had to check it out. The special exhibits building is the one located straight ahead as your walking toward the buildings from the parking lot. There are some special exhibits that you have to pay for, including the Normal Rockwell exhibit that is there now, but there are also several free ones, including the picture book exhibit entitled, "Fins and Feathers: Original Children’s Book Illustrations from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art."
When we walked in, they started off by handing us several free bookmarks displaying art from the exhibit which was a nice touch. We headed down the elevators to reach the exhibit because of our stroller. Turns out the elevator was a sight to see on its own. It has glass windows that look out onto the grounds of the museum. They have actually created features on the ground that spell out "Picture this" when observed from the elevator. Too bad the elevator ride was so quick and we didn't have time to really look at it.
The actual "Fins and Feathers" exhibit was much smaller than I had imagined. It was one small room. Even though it was small there were some great original illustrations from Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Arnold Lobel, and more. Another neat feature was the chairs and table in the middle filled with all of the actual picture books containing the illustrations on the wall. While my son enjoyed looking at the paintings and finding them in the books, the room was so small that it didn't hold his attention for too long.
Our other stop that day was the outdoor grounds and park at the museum. I hadn't realized quite how expansive this area was, but there were lots of people that were out for a run or bike ride through these grounds while we were touring. It was a great place to blow off some toddler steam after being good inside the museum. There was a pond, lots of wide open spaces, some huge sculptures, and even a pavilion with shade/rain cover that could be used for a picnic.
**On a side note, great minds apparently think alike! When I turned on my computer to publish this post, I noticed that the museum and the "Fins and Feathers" exhibit was also recently visited by our friends at mominchapelhill.blogspot.com. Check out their blog for their take on the visit.
What we liked: We love how there are so many things to explore at the museum, and you can find something new to explore each time you go. Plus, it's free! That way, it doesn't matter how much or little of the museum you get through in a given visit, you can always come back! We also loved the combination of outdoor and indoor options which is great for short toddler attention spans.
What we would change: The Eric Carle special exhibit was fairly small, so I probably wouldn't head to the museum with the sole purpose of seeing that exhibit. Fortunately, after you take a look at that exhibit, there are plenty of other things to see. In addition, the outdoor grounds are expansive, so a stroller is recommended for when the toddler legs get tired. However, if you do bring a stroller to the museum, use caution because there were several of the exhibits in the special exhibit building where strollers were not permitted because of space.
Website and other important information:
Address: 2110 Blue Ridge Road Raleigh NC
Phone Number: (919) 715-5923
Dates and Hours:
**Hurry-"Fins and Feathers" is only on exhibit until the end of January 2010!
Tuesday–Thursday 10 am–5 pm
Friday 10 am–9 pm
Saturday–Sunday 10 am–5 pm
The Museum Park is open daily, including holidays, from dawn to dusk.
1. Looking back at the museum from the outdoor trails.
2. An art feature and covered pavilion
3. Lots of room for running and exploring
4. A close up of one of the art pieces
**Pictures were not permitted indoors at the special exhibits.