If I had to recommend a museum to someone who struggles to immerse him/herself in art, history, and/or culture, the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum would be at the top of my list. This relatively small museum features a beautiful garden and lawn ideal for picnics and enjoying the city atmosphere, and is also great for letting younger children run around within so that they (hopefully) won’t be bouncing off of the walls inside. Located on Museum Mile, at 2 East 91st Street, the Cooper Hewitt is bursting with history accompanied by completely modern interactive technological tools designed to complement each exhibit. All guests are provided with a giant electric “pencil” that can be used in nearly each exhibit to contribute to the art, learn more about the display, and save your unique works. Guests are encouraged to interact with the exhibits by means of electronic tables positioned by each collection, and the pencils are used to create your own architectural designs, either using prompts and outlines provided within the tables.
One particular exhibit was a projection of your personal art onto the walls of the room (where, naturally, my friends and I created a tribute to our favorite fallen Bronx bar), which made it easy to become engrossed in the exhibit, as you truly were the artist. All it took was a simple sketch for the entire vibe of the room to change, and sketches varied from short phrases, to cartoon dogs, to vibrant flowers.
One other aspect of the Cooper Hewitt that’s guaranteed to catch anyone’s eye was the Pixar collection: bursting with character sketches, rough plot outlines, animated clips, and brought-to-life renderings of famous Pixar characters like Woody, the various emotions personified within Feelings, the beloved Pixar Lamp that stole hearts in the Pixar shorts that precede the feature films, and Princess Merida, all depicted in the various stages of their developments.
If fashion is more your style (pun definitely intended), then the Thom Brown Selects exhibit is sure to resonate with you. A clever use of light and mirrors, this exhibit features rows of silver metallic shoes on a silver metallic floor of a room with (you guessed it) silver metallic walls. Mirrors are scattered across the walls in a seemingly random pattern, and there is a completely reflective desk with a lamp and chair of the shame material perched in the back of the room. The intention of the artist was to create an “infinity effect” with all of the different objects providing reflections, and I’d say he did a pretty good job of making that evident.
Other exhibits that I was privy to included one focused on both spiral staircases and bird cages, one dedicated to chair evolutions, and various pieces of outdated technology and architecture sprinkled throughout the museum.
The basement even offered what I can only describe as quirky exhibits, with a motion-detecting computer that required you to stand in a specific spot and strike a pose, and whatever pre-digitalized pose was most similar to yours would register on the monitor in an outfit that the creator thought best exemplified that particular pose or a brief lesson delving slightly into how clothes are created. You could also essentially embody a spinning top with the bizarre seats that you’re invited to test out, and once you sit down, the seats spin in the same fashion as a top, giving the impression that you’ll fall backwards before the rotation completes again.
The Cooper-Hewitt is definitely a safe bet for those who want to at least seem cultured but are hesitant to step foot into a museum, but also for those who have a genuine love of museums. With so many interactive aspects and intriguing exhibits, it’s almost difficult to distinguish the artists from the patrons.
For more information: http://www.cooperhewitt.org