This May Be the Perfect Way to Visit an Art Museum

While driving to Dunkin’ Donuts as part of my Sunday morning ritual, I heard on the radio that the Barnes Foundation is free on the first Sunday of the month (through the generosity of PECO, the local utility company).

In case you are not familiar with the Barnes, the Barnes, according to its web site, has the “greatest private collection of impressionist, post-impressionist and early-modern paintings. Explore more than 3,000 masterpieces, including 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos, 16 Modigli­anis, and 7 Van Goghs, plus textiles, metalwork, decorative objects, African sculpture, Native American ceramics and jewelry, and Pennsylvania German furniture.”

While I recognize those names, I wouldn’t know one of their paintings from another (or possibly from a kindergartner as well).

So I thought, here’s another chance to pick up some culture. The Barnes web site did note that “Tickets are limited and available on a first come-first served basis”, but I thought that since it was a holiday weekend it would be kind of slow.

Well, I was wrong. By the time we got there, all of the tickets for the day were gone, but we could still go inside and visit the Barnes gift shop. So we did.

What a revelation!

Inside that 800 square foot shop were prints, greeting cards, and posters of what I assumed were the major works of art that could be found in the museum itself. It took me less than 10 minutes to work my way around the shop, and I’m sure I got as much pleasure out of that 10 minutes as I would have gotten in a two-hour walk through of the museum.

And all it required was a 10-minute time commitment on my part!

We left the Barnes, and I was actually in a good mood, since I never felt the need to complain about what some people considered art. It also freed us up to explore more parts of the city.

We had a chance to visit the Swann Memorial Fountain at Logan Circle, which was busy with people, and dogs, where frogs and turtles that spout water toward the 50-foot geyser in the center. Inspired by what I saw at the Barnes, I did a quick sketch of Mary wading through the fountain:


From there we went to the great Free Library of Philadelphia (there was actually a crowd of people waiting for the doors to open when we got there, I guess it’s a favorite place to cool off in the summer.)

We next went to a classic used book store, the Bookhaven. Breaking the used bookstore mold, Bookhaven packs its two floors with amazing finds, arranged in an organized fashion (by genre, then author) rather than in piles. There is, however, the quintessential store cat.

The walk from the Library to the bookstore was one of the highlights of the day. We had never really walked around this part of the city (the Fairmount section), and we found beautiful tree lined residential streets with beautiful brownstone style homes.

While at the Bookhaven, which is right across the street from the infamous Eastern State Penitentiary, I picked up three Harlan Coben novels ( a couple of people have told me how much they enjoy his books, so I thought I’d start at the beginning).

After  leaving the bookstore we walked to the amazing Whole Foods, which is right on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. While we sat there having a late afternoon lunch, we watched as the Parkway was busy getting ready for the 4th of July celebration. Tuesday will feature the Party on the Parkway and the Wawa Welcome America July 4th Concert,  one of the largest free outdoor concerts in the country.

It was a perfect way to spend a summer day in the city, and a perfect way to visit an art museum.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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