Field Trip: deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

I’ve been wanting to visit the deCordova for a while now, and it’s on our summer list. (As a bonus, it’s free on summer weekdays, so if you’re anywhere in the area, now’s the time to visit!) This was my first visit, too, so all of us were exploring together. No photos were allowed inside, so you’ll have to imagine… we began on the third floor (because that’s where the bathrooms are!), so the first exhibit we saw was Ursula von Rydingsvard’s sculptures inside the museum. After we looked at them and talked a bit about them (some of them included cow intestines! except the intestines looked completely different in the two pieces–we figured it was the inside vs. the outside) the kids asked for their sketchbooks. We were the only ones in the gallery at the time, and we sat down on the floor, the kids looked at the sculptures, and drew. I really wish I could have taken a picture of them.

We visited all three main exhibits inside the museum. The focus is on contemporary art; I was disappointed that items from the permanent collection weren’t on display. One exhibit, Wall Works, had works inspired by items from the permanent collection, which were on display alongside. What a great opportunity to see how art and artists continue to inspire and inform each other.

The third exhibit inside is works by Andy Goldsworthy. He is best known, I think, for his land art. The museum is raising money to support Goldsworthy’s permanent installation “Snow House” in the sculpture park. The indoor exhibit included mainly photographs of his work with snow, as well as two works on paper that consisted of allowing large “urban, gritty” snowballs to melt on the paper, and then allowing the paper to dry. I predict that we’ll be experimenting with our own snowball art next winter!

The sculpture park is just fantastic. It’s such a wonderful thing to have a big open outside space when visiting museums with young children. We got to spread out a blanket and have a picnic lunch; the kids climbed a big rock for a while; we walked along a path outside with views of Flint’s Pond; and of course, we wandered around looking at sculpture.

This is Rain Gates. It’s sculpture you can walk around in:

Ozymandias dominates the front part of the park.

The kids took out their sketchbooks again. I’d also grabbed our traveling art box from the car.

Ursula von Rydingsvard also has a sculpture in the park, ence pence:

I liked this one, Apollo by Albert Paley, mainly because of the materials. It’s made of stainless steel and weathering steel, and N and I talked about how that means when the sculpture was first made, it would have looked different; it was meant for time and the elements to change it and weather it. We felt it to see how the steels were different in texture as well as in color.

And G likes trains, so this Mass Art Vehicle on tracks was right up her alley.

The deCordova website has a page devoted to visiting their museum with children. They also provide family activity kits that can be borrowed–some for outside, some for inside. We didn’t end up using any, because all the materials except the paper needed to be returned anyway (and we had plenty of paper), because we’re fairly good at talking about art by this point, and because I didn’t know if the clay/dough included in the kit was gluten-safe and, unfortunately, I have to consider that sort of thing. But it’s nice to know these resources are available, and the guards never once looked idgety about my children being in the galleries or drawing in sketchbooks. This museum is doing really well with making sure families and children feel welcome.

We weren’t able to see everything in the sculpture park–it’s so big! Which is just an excuse to go back again soon.

7 thoughts on “Field Trip: deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

  1. Zenobia Southcombe

    Great article! I like the idea of showing older works that have inspired contemporary works – many contemporary artists have influences from some of the ‘masters’.

    The sculpture park looks amazing! New Zealand is such a small country that we don’t get the opportunity to build anything as expansive as that – but we do try!

    I am looking forward to seeing photos from your next visit.

  2. Jenn Schmitt

    Hello Amy and family –
    We’re so glad you had a great time visiting deCordova. I love the description of the kids inspired by Ursula’s sculptures to pull out the sketchbooks. I hope you got a chance to see her resin piece, Elegantka, up on the roof terrace. Also, we’re looking into the concern about the gluten in the clay so other families won’t have to worry about that in the future. Thanks so much for the wonderful feedback and we hope to see you again soon!

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