Really, the museum is free? I marveled at the experience of walking into the
West building of the North Carolina Museum of Art on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh and looking at the outstanding collection spread out before me like a feast. The building is light-filled, spacious, friendly, and free.
I grew up in New York City and majored in art at Hunter College. My days were filled with museum visits in Manhattan, where I became familiar to many of the guards in The Met and the Museum of Modern Art. They liked art students. The museums were free to us then and often quite empty.
My future husband courted me at the Met mainly because it was free and we could stay for hours on a Sunday rambling through rooms of furniture, jewelry and art. We imagined similar trophies in our home. We were young, but at least it helped us develop a taste for fine things even if we could not afford them.
With time these museums grew larger and became popular with local and foreign visitors now charging for the privilege of viewing the very works we thought as our property. Museum entrance fees became staggering for a newlywed couple, then parents with a growing family. On top of that was the cost of transportation into the city as we became suburbanites.
As a Professor of Art at a university in New Jersey, my love for art became my profession. What a joy to share art history with students. I was careful of the costs to myself and students when we took trips to the museums. It required careful budgeting for my department – when were still able to pay for student trips. That too became a thing of the past a good fifteen years ago.
I found myself living in the Raleigh area when we moved here just over one year ago. The first week my husband and I went to the North Carolina Museum of Art. Wow! Amazement, delight and gratitude for the gift we have. Two hundred works of world class art in this collection. The environment for viewing them is even better than the overcrowded spaces in NY; there are few officious guards monitoring your presence insisting you stand far back from the work. I have become up close and personal with Rembrandt, Gainsborough and others. Another benefit In addition to free admission is free and plentiful parking.
Retired now from teaching I felt compelled to share my enthusiasm and love for art with other Olli students. With so much available in the museum, including docent tours, I have framed my lecture to help prepare Olli visitors to get the most out of your visit. You can look for my offering in February. It’s called “Look at Me”
Dr. Geraldine Velasquez, Professor of Art and Design Emeritus