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Go MIA from the MFA and ICA -- visit these art galleries and museums instead

Posted by Alex Pearlman  March 31, 2012 05:48 PM

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art gallery.jpgBy Christi Kim

The radiant spring weather is a great invitation to step outside and appreciate the beauty of nature and the art that Boston has to offer. While the MFA and ICA are always good fallback options, it's often more fun to find somewhere new and full of art you haven't yet seen.

Since Boston is home to plenty of little galleries and larger museums, finding a different spot shouldn't be too hard. These are a few of my favorites.

Harvard Art Museums (32 Quincy St., Harvard Square). The prestige and top-notch standards of their namesake Ivy League university shows itself in the quality of the Harvard Art Museums. There are 250,000 pieces in the museums' permanent collections, including works by Picasso and Van Gogh. Although many universities have affiliated museums (the MIT Museum is great, too), the way the Harvard Art Museums are organized is especially striking. I appreciate how each of the school's three museums houses art from different parts of the world, rather than focusing strictly on American and European work, as many smaller museums do. The Fogg Museum contains traditional works from American and European artists; the Busch-Reisinger Museum showcases German art; and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum displays Asian, ancient, and Islamic art. Hours and Admission: Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free for Harvard students and affiliates and Cambridge Public Library cardholders, as well as Massachusetts residents from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

Boston Center for the Arts Mills Gallery (539 Tremont St., South End). The Boston Center for the Arts is part art gallery, part performance venue. The Mills Gallery "is dedicated to presenting contemporary works by emerging and established artists and curators," according to the official website. And if you enjoy both visual and performing arts, you can check out Boston's theater scene in the same spot! Hours and Admission: Open Thursday-Saturday, noon-9 p.m., and Wednesday and Sunday, noon-5 p.m.

isabella stewart gardner museum.jpg Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (280 Fenway, Fenway). If your name is Isabella, you’re in luck! You have free admission to this museum forever. But even if that's not your name, a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is still worth your while. After a recent renovation, the museum is more stunning than ever -- visually appealing, with a beautiful center courtyard. The atmosphere of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is truly unique in that visiting is like entering the home of a wealthy family rather than a traditional museum. The collection of over 2,500 pieces contains work from Rembrandt and Michelangelo, among other famous masterpieces. Hours and Admission: Open Wednesday-Monday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.and Thursdays, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Admission is $5 with a valid college ID.

Museum of Bad Art (online and at various locations). If you're sick and tired of the presumptuous atmosphere sometimes brought about by great art, try visiting the MOBA for a refreshing change of pace. In the laid-back atmosphere of the Dedham Community Theatre, Somerville Theatre, and Brookline Access Television building, you'll feel comfortable viewing the collection of pieces that "range from the work of talented artists that have gone awry to works of exuberant, although crude, execution by artists barely in control of the brush," according to their website. Hours and Admission: Hours vary by location, but admission is always free.

SoWa Artists Guild (450 Harrison Ave., South End). I accidentally walked into this building one day while looking for a restroom after going to the SoWa Open Market. I was confused about what the building was at first, but I was pleasantly surprised to see so many lovely paintings lined up against the walls of its hallways. And then I peeked inside some of the doors and realized that all the rooms featured artists and their artwork. The Artists Guild contains 15 galleries featuring over 50 artists, especially highlighting those from Boston. On “First Fridays,” visitors are invited to look at art, taste wine, and meet the artists. I really enjoy the fact that the location wasn’t just a flat, open studio space with art on the walls; instead, opening each door feels like opening up a new world. Visiting the Artists Guild is a great way to meet new people and learn more about art, whether you know everything or nothing about it. Hours and Admission: Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free.

Which Boston art gallery or museum is your favorite?

Photos by Marshall Astor - Food Fetishist (top) and Musebrarian (bottom) (Flickr)

About Christi -- I'm a student and copy editor in Boston. I have an interest in pretty much everything. I like to spend my free time as part photographer, writer, graphic designer, foodie, artist, and musician. I enjoy reading in a quiet sunlit room and watching movies with friends.

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