Have Family, Will Explore: Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY

July 25, 2014

My son and I recently took a day trip to Corning, NY.  Our main destination was the Rockwell Museum, which is located downtown at 111 Cedar Street.  I hadn’t visited the Rockwell Museum in a few years and this would mark my son’s first trip to an art museum.  I was a little nervous to take a busy three-year old into such a space but was confident that we’d have fun and make it work! 

The Experience
Everything about the Rockwell Museum is impressive – its historic building, interior layout and design, and the art itself.  The museum houses one of the most diverse collections of American Art in the U.S.  The Rockwell proudly proclaims that it offers “Art About America – the people, land and ideas that shape America through the eyes of American artists.”

The collections at the Rockwell Museum feature a wide range of media including drawings, paintings, pottery, photographs, artifacts and sculptures.  Visitors can see artwork by Frederic Remington, Deborah Butterfield, Andy Warhol, Charles Russell, traditional work by Native American artisans and Native American artists such as Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Judith Lowry.

My personal motivation to visit?  I was excited to give my boy a peek into the American West through art, through the warmth of the Rockwell, and through this very unique collection.  And, word on the street was that the museum had expanded upon family-friendly activities and interior space.



Art Hunt
Even before entering the building, my son was enthralled with the brickwork and the super cool ‘Happy Trails’ wagon wheel ironwork in the parking lot area (picture below).  We entered the museum and met with a warm greeting.  Staff encouraged us to go on an Art Hunt, one of many family-friendly offerings the Rockwell provides.  They gave us a colorful guide to work from and we matched clues to images found in paintings and objects throughout the galleries.  This ready-made activity promoted dialogue about the art and provided focus and engagement for the both of us.




Family Exploration Studio
The museum recently opened the Family Exploration Station, an interactive space where kids and adults can read, design, create, write, and investigate.  The Studio features puzzles, books, light tables, art materials, and more.  The atmosphere certainly encourages exploration and is a part of Rockwell’s dedication to education.  

My favorite part of this space is the open setting, which offers families a chance to learn informally together.


Photos by Kirsten Van Atta. Used by permission from The Rockwell Museum.


Grandpa Fred the Bison
On our way out of the museum we returned the Art Hunt guide and, in honor of his efforts, my son was allowed to pick out a prize.  He proudly chose a teeny bison figurine and immediately tucked it into his front shirt pocket.  I asked him what he would like to name the bison, to which he replied, “Grandpa Fred.”  Naturally.




I think the energy of the art and all there was to see inspired my son.  How do I know this?  Well, I’m pretty sure we circled every gallery multiple times looking and commenting and asking many questions.  It was not necessarily the way I would “take in” a museum but it was exhilarating to experience the Rockwell through his curiosity (and pace).

Oh yes – I need to mention that kids and teens enjoy free admission to the museum.  Thank you, Rockwell!


Lunch in the Gaffer District
Corning is a small city with bustling streets and foot traffic.  Even on a cool, rainy, grey morning, the city’s energy persists.  In the area known as the Gaffer District, we walked along historic Market Street noticing shops and businesses. Our destination for lunch was the Old World Café, based a recommendation from Rockwell Museum staff. 

We were the first customers of the day.  My son’s eyes grew big as he noticed the décor, the fresh cheeses & vegetables, and the café’s old-fashioned ice cream parlor.  My son and I shared a vegetable platter that came with a delicious dip.  He also enjoyed a huge peanut butter and jelly sandwich on beautiful, fresh whole wheat bread with chips and pickles on the side.  The Old World Café offers wholesome, tasty food with wonderful service.  A special shout-out to the very kind waitress who was patient with us and answered countless questions from my boy. 




Over lunch we talked about our visit to the museum.  I asked him what he enjoyed and he said, “seeing the cowboys and Indians and going up and down the stairs.”  Then he took Grandpa Fred the Bison out of his pocket to play with.

We couldn’t leave The Old World Café without getting an ice cream cone, which he contentedly enjoyed as we walked back outside.


Happy Trails!
As it was approaching naptime, I decided it best that we head home.  It was hard to pull away from Corning, however, with its great energy and so much to see and do.  We made a pact to return soon.  My family can’t wait!




Have you checked out the new Family Exploration Space at the Rockwell Museum?  What's your favorite place to visit in Corning,NY?  Share via Twiter with LuckyMamaJ.