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Woodmere Art Museum Near Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia and Norristown PA - Review

Updated on June 17, 2015

Introduction to The Woodmere Art Museum

I have found myself a bit fascinated by all of the things you can do n Philadelphia and along the nearby bordering Montgomery County. There are plenty of little interesting nook places to check out that do not cost an arm and a leg. I've done a couple articles on local, cheap things to do in the Philadelphia area. I have linked them at the bottom of this article.

Recently, I went to the Woodmere Art Museum. The Woodmere Art Museum is located just west of the 'downtown' Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. It is very, very close to the Montgomery County border. I visited the museum twice recently and decided to to a review.

Getting There

Very easy to get to this museum.

The Woodmere art museum is very accessible from the Turnpike, NE Extension and Blue Route. It is only minutes east from the Norristown Interchange. It is minutes west of 'downtown' Chestnut Hill

The Woodmere art museum is located on Germantown Avenue. Address is 9201 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118

Parking

Parking is a breeze. During my two weekend visits there was ample parking. Parking is outdoor (no garage parking), you park your own car (no attendant) and is free.

Getting In

As you walk through the front door there is a small desk where you pay a $10 admission.

The Size

The size of the museum is pretty small. If you were to slowly but continuously walk past the exhibits, not studying them but casually observing the works, you could easily get through the whole museum in about 15 - 20 minutes at the very most.

Don't let the size fool you though. If you take your time your find that there are hundreds if not thousands of works to mentally absorb

This is a museum that allows you to dictate your own time rather than the other way around. Don't feel as though you need to rush to see everything. You will certainly see everything and have enough time to learn about each work and the artists.

The Look - The Outside

The Woodmere Art Museum collection is housed in a 19th century Victorian mansion that is set back a hundred yards or so off Germantown Avenue.

I love the look of the outside of the mansion. The mansion is made largely of stone. It is set back (but still visible) from the road. These features gives the museum a distinctive haunted-house look to it. You can't help to be curious about what is in there. It begs you to come inside.

The Look - Inside

The inside of the museum has elements of the brooding, haunted mansion but that quickly wears off. I had expects dark, candle lit corridors and alcoves but that is not the case here.

The inside is not the ghost roamed brooding halls that I had imagined. The gallery spaces are very diverse in appearance. Some areas look very mansion-esque (see the picture next to this paragraph) while other areas have the much more austere contemporary art gallery design.

The Two Floor Gallery

The majority of the art is displayed on the first floor of the mansion but there is a rotunda-like area that has two floors. See picture next to this paragraph.

This is the largest space in the museum. They also hold lectures here. I wish more museums presented art in-the-round like this. I feel like there is a natural, circular flow around this gallery as I look at each painting. This space is also great for standing in the center and getting a birds-eye view of all of the work before closer examination.

The top balcony that circles the room can get a little claustrophobic. If you are someone who quickly views a painting and immediately moves on, you'll constantly be excusing yourself. The balcony is narrow so the best way to view the art is to step back and lean against the rail. As people are doing this, others need to walk right in front of the viewer in order to get by.

That said, this is a fun and impressive section of the gallery. You won't be able to resist walking into the center of the room to look around, then up to the top floor.

Be warned. As a public safety message, I'd suggest NOT taking young children to the upper balcony in this room. There are age restrictions posted so please heed them. Seriously, your kids will fall through that railing when you are not looking. The area, especially the railing, is not a kid-proof and it is high up.

The Art

The art at the Woodmere consists of works by local artists from Philadelphia and the surrounding regions.

During my trip, their collection consisted mostly of prints and paintings with some furniture. I thought that the art was very well presented and very accessible and easy to view.

I admit, I did not recognize one artist. There are no Picasso's or Rembrandt's here but there is also nothing wrong with that. The purpose of this museum, at least in my interpretation, is to present talented artists from the Philadelphia region. This museum, exposes its visitors to fine art that wouldn't normally be found at say, The Louvre (to use an extreme example to say the least :-)

Within this museum's walls, if you are from the Philadelphia region, you can't help but embrace the art and recognize that talent just doesn't come from afar places like France or Italy. Good art is produced by there very people who live and have lived nearby, perhaps in your own neighborhood.

What I Didn't Expect - Children's Art

The Woodmere Art Museum has a large Children's Gallery. The museum rotates various children's exhibits that are, of course, created by children in the Philadelphia area. During my visit, this gallery displayed the art of the Penn Charter school.

This area caught me by surprise. At first I was a little disappointed in this gallery because I couldn't figure out what kind of audience it was trying to attract.

The area really doesn't provide any interesting things for children to do and I don't believe that kids are interested in the art of other kids to begin with.

Adults may be a bit lost here too. Unless it is their own children, adult patrons are not likely to be impressed in the Children's Gallery. Sure, grown ups will walk through the Children's gallery and check out the art, but I doubt there will be much dinner table conversation about this gallery.

That is just the cynical side in me talking though. When I thought more about it I came up with a couple reasons why this space is so important:

1. It is gutsy. Seriously, it takes some guts to use valuable space to present the art of local children. A lot of 'wimpier' museums would avoid this decision. I like the whimsical boldness of this display.

2. It will definitely draw people who might never set foot in an art museum. Sure, there is no way most adults will go out of their way to visit some random Children's art gallery, but what about the relatives of those children? Think about it. You could be the most anti-art person in America but the moment your child has art at the Woodmere there will be nothing to hold you back from a visit. You'll bring relatives and probably that camera in your cell phone will go into overdrive. It is a great way to get people in the door.

3. The Woodmere is about past, present and future local artists, not simply what is the most popular. The Children's gallery represents the future of art in the Philadelphia region. It also shows the Woodmere's hope and dedication to displaying local art for generations to come.

Who Will Think The Woodmere is the Greatest?

Who Will Love It

--If you enjoy paintings and prints, and you enjoy learning about local artists, you'll love it.

--If you are looking for something quick and different do to on a lazy afternoon, you'll love it. Even if you don't love it, this visit won't take much time.

--If you drive by this place all the time and want to satisfy that desire to check out that 'haunted house', do it for crying out loud. You only live once.

--If you are interested in art classes, I know nothing about what they offer, but they offer classes as well as lectures.

Who Won't Love It

--If paintings and prints aren't your thing, you won't be too nuts about this place.

--If you go to an art museum for the cardio vascular workout, go to the Philadelphia Art Museum where you can walk for miles. If you sprint the Woodmere you'll be done in less time than it took for you to pay admission.

--Young kids. They'll hate it. This isn't particularly interactive. That said, take the kids anyway. It is good to expose them to the arts. If they don't like it now, they'll likely learn to appreciate it later.

--If you have really little ones that like to run around, don't take them to the upper balcony in the round room. They'll fall through the railing and probably wind up in the hospital or worse.

To Sum Up - Pros and Cons

Cons

-The upper balcony could have been a little wider and less cramped. That said, c'mon, it is still a cool space. Get upstairs you'll like it.

-The admission is a little steep for such a short trip. It costs $10 so if you are taking the whole family it will add up. Maybe the fee is optional or a 'donation' but I didn't get that impression. They asked for it as I walked in. That said, they have to pay the bills somehow. It would be a better value at half the price but I pay the $10 anyway. Support fine local institutions and quit being so cheap :-)

-No recognizable artists. At least not to a casual art observer. Even the special exhibits I had not heard of. That said, do you want to just see the same artists over and over again or do you want to branch out and learn more? Check it out

Pros

-Easy parking, easy to get to.

-Very quick and punchy. This is a trip you can take your time on or blast through and do something else great locally. Good use of space

- I love the representation of local artists. You can't help but learn something new on this trip

Go and Visit

Get out there an visit this place. If you are looking for other great things to do in the area that won't take up much of your time and will not cost a lot of money, please read some of my other posts I have linked below.

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