Find a masterpiece that everyone will love. Long ago on a summer Sunday, my husband and I packed up our boys and a picnic lunch and headed to deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass. Being 8 and 9, the boys were ready to run the 30 acres of rolling hills and gardens. Fortunately, we had a park map of all 60 sculptures, which helped us keep our roadrunners in line as they dashed from Jim Dine’s “Two Big Black Hearts” to Paul Matisse’s “The Musical Fence” (where they banged out a little tune) to John Wilson’s big, bronze meditative head, “Eternal Presence.”
I’ve been back to the park at least two dozen times, but no visit will ever match the first time I saw this place through the eyes of my boys.
Whether you’re doing a staycation or you need an escape after a string of rainy days, these seven area museums all offer surprises, activities and good summertime adventure.
Addison Gallery of American Art: This world-renowned American art museum is located on the Phillips Academy campus in Andover. Inside you’ll find such masterpieces as Winslow Homer’s “Eight Bells,” Stuart Davis’ “Red Cart,” George Bellows’ “The Circus,” Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Wave, Night” and Sol LeWitt’s “Wall Drawing #713,” which is permanently installed around the perimeter of the vaulted ceiling. A retrospective of Frank Stella prints is on view through July 30.
Hint: Don’t miss an outstanding collection of model ships on the lower level. The museum is open seven days a week (closed in August) and admission is free.
deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum: The focus may be on the outdoor sculpture park, but inside you’ll find more than three floors of contemporary paintings, prints, sculptures and objects. Through Sept. 17, see “Expanding Abstraction: New England Women Painters, 1950 to Now.” Hike up to the roof terrace (sixth floor) and see panoramic views of the park and Flint’s Pond. Stop on the fourth floor for comfort food dining at the deCordova Café.
Hint: Children 12 and under are free. Dogs on leashes are welcome in the park.
Peabody Essex Museum: What started off as a collection of curiosity cabinets filled with ship captains’ treasures has evolved into a sprawling, modern and diverse museum in Salem, Mass., focusing on culture, history and art from around the world.
Relive the glory days of luxurious sea travel in “Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed, and Style” (now through Oct. 9). “It’s Alive!” opens Aug. 12, an exhibit that promises to be a kid pleaser and a throwback for adults, with electric guitars, monster masks, and horror and science fiction art, all from the collection of Kirk Hammett, the guitarist for Metallica.
Hint: Don’t miss Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old Chinese ancestral house that was transported here and rebuilt inside the museum. It’s usually sold out, so be sure to buy tickets in advance.
Cape Ann Museum: This Gloucester museum offers an intriguing sampling of the art, culture and history of the Cape Ann area, including the city’s famous fishing port. Here you’ll find the largest collection of Fitz Henry Lane paintings, plus the work of famous artists who summered here: Marsden Hartley, Milton Avery, John Sloan, Stuart Davis, Paul Manship, Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper.
Whimsical fabrics and graphics by the Folly Cove Designers are not to be missed. This guild of 45 craftspeople worked in the area from 1938 to 1969. The most famous member was Virginia Lee Burton, the author and illustrator of “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.” The museum also exhibits artifacts pertaining to local sailing, fishing and granite mining.
Hint: Don’t miss the Gloucester Harbor Diorama (shown at Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition) and the exhibit about Howard Blackburn — a fisherman who lost all his fingers after being stranded at sea but recovered enough to sail alone twice across the Atlantic in a specially designed sloop (on display).
Currier Museum of Art: This Manchester, N.H., museum, which opened in 1929, offers an extraordinary collection of European and American masters (including Picasso, Matisse, Calder, Rodin, Andrew Wyeth, Marisol and more). On view July 1-Nov. 13 is “Monet: Pathways to Impressionism,” showing four early works by the French artist that illustrate his progression toward impressionism. The Currier also offers tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Zimmerman House, complete with original furnishings. Reserve in advance.
Hint: For lunch, eat at the Winter Garden Café in the atrium. There’s a lavish brunch with live jazz on the second Sunday of every month. Reserve in advance.
Fitchburg Art Museum: This community art museum operates as a cultural and artistic hub. All wall text and printed materials are in English and Spanish. The museum features rotating contemporary exhibits, but also offers strong collections in Egyptian, Roman, Greek and 19th century European art. On view now through September 3 is the “82nd Regional Exhibition of Art & Craft,” one of the oldest juried exhibits in New England. Also on view is “Global Africa,” a collection of classic and commissioned African art, including masks, videos, photographs and textiles.
Hints: Admission is free for children 12 and under and active military and their families. All visitors are admitted free every first Thursday of each month from 3 to 7 p.m.
Griffin Museum of Photography: Arthur Griffin left his mark on 20th century photojournalism and established a foundation to advance the appreciation of photographic arts. This museum in Winchester hosts rotating exhibitions, plus satellite galleries in Stoneham, Belmont, Easthampton and two in Boston. Each year the Griffin hosts the Focus Awards, a national ceremony that acknowledges extraordinary achievements in photography. Scheduled for July 6-Sept. 1 is the “23rd Griffin Museum Juried Exhibition,” along with “Focus On: The Gun Culture,” a presentation of Ed Friedman photographs.
Hint: The museum offers photography and professional development classes.
Addison Gallery of American Art
Cape Ann Museum
Currier Museum of Art
deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Fitchburg Art Museum
Griffin Museum of Photography
Peabody Essex Museum