THE BLOG
06/03/2012 02:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Art Takes Over Fifth Avenue for the 34th Annual Museum Mile Festival

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Culture-lovers take over Fifth Avenue for the annual Museum Mile Festival, stroll pass the Metropolitan Museum of Art © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

The 34th Annual Museum Mile Festival, when art literally takes to the streets in a fabulous celebration, takes place on Tuesday, June 12, 6-9 p.m., rain or shine.

Here is your chance to experience museums that you might not have seen before -- partially because of a high admission price, and partially because you find yourself gravitating to the blockbuster exhibits at the big-name museums.

The Museum Mile Festival's opening ceremony takes place at 5:45 p.m. at National Academy Museum & School (Fifth Avenue at 89th Street), which is reopening after a renovation. Traditionally, the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs and other city and state dignitaries open the Festival.

Participating museums include: El Museo del Barrio; The Museum of the City of New York; The Jewish Museum; Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution; National Academy Museum & School; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Neue Galerie New York; Goethe-Institut New York/German Cultural Center; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art are the nine institutions participating in this highly successful collaboration. (The Goethe-Institut New York has moved to an interim location.) The Museum for African Art, opening in its new home in a year, has joined the Museum Mile Festival as its newest member.

Fifth Avenue is closed to traffic and becomes a strollers' haven. Special exhibitions and works from permanent collections are on view inside the museums' galleries and live music from jazz to Broadway tunes to string quartets is featured in front of several of the museums. Additional street entertainers perform along Fifth Avenue all evening.

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Kids enjoy the opportunity to create art on the street, during the Museum Mile Festival © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

There will also be an array of outdoor activities for Museum Mile Festival attendees, many with particular appeal to children: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum will offer shape and nature motif hunts that investigate the architecture of the building, and a chalk drawing project creating kids' own museums. Figure drawing with a live model and chalk drawing will take place at the National Academy Museum & School. Visitors to The Jewish Museum can create patterned works of art inspired by the paintings of artists Kehinde Wiley and Edouard Vuillard. The Museum of the City of New York invites children to help fill in a giant chalk outline of Manhattan's street grid. El Museo del Barrio will offer art-making, gallery exploration, a photo booth, performance art and DJ Stormin Norman spinning live on the street.

Exhibitions on View:

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Enjoying an exhibit at the Jewish Museum. The Museum Mile Festival, when 9 museums are open at no charge, is a chance to explore museums that are outside your well beaten path © 2012 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

Festival attendees will be among the first to see Caribbean: Crossroads of the World, examining the visual arts and aesthetic development across the Caribbean and considering the histories of the Spanish, French, Dutch and English islands and their diasporas, at El Museo del Barrio, opening that evening.

Museum of the City of New York: Capital of Capital: New York's Banks and the Creation of a Global Economy and The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011

The Jewish Museum: Edouard Vuillard: A Painter and His Muses, 1890-1940; Kehinde Wiley/The World Stage: Israel; Sanford Biggers and Jennifer Zackin: a small world...; Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey; and for children, Archaeology Zone: Discovering Treasures from Playgrounds to Palaces

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum: The exhibition galleries and Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden will be closed due to Cooper-Hewitt's RE:DESIGN, the most ambitious renovation project in the Museum's history which will provide enlarged and enhanced facilities for exhibitions, collections display, education programming and the National Design Library, and an increased endowment. During the renovation, Cooper-Hewitt's usual schedule of exhibitions, education programs and events will be staged at various off-site locations, including Graphic Design-Now in Production on view on Governors Island from May 26 to Sept. 3. Visit cooperhewitt.org for additional information.

National Academy Museum & School: Women's Work, including Mary Cassatt -- Graphic Artist, Colleen Browning: Urban Dweller, Exotic Traveler, May Stevens: The Big Daddy Series, Women Sculptors of the National Academy and From Protest to Process: Recent Gifts by Women Academicians; White: The Anatomy of a Color; and the second rotation of An American Collection,

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim, 1949-1960; Francesca Woodman; From the Archives: Artist Awards and Acquisitions, 1956-1987; the Thannhauser Collection; and A Year with Children 2012

Neue Galerie New York: Heinrich Kuehn and His American Circle: Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen

The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations

The Goethe-Institut New York is still at its interim location at 72 Spring Street, 11th Floor. Nevertheless, for the Museum Mile Festival the Goethe-Institut will be present at its former building on 1014 Fifth Avenue, providing information about its new venues, programs, activities, and library.

There is a variety of entertainment will be presented all along Fifth:

Kids will especially enjoy Sammie & Tudie's Imagination Playhouse at 93th Street and at 88th Street, Daisy Doodle's Parties, Magic, Face painting & Balloons! Silly Bill will be at 90th. There's the Magic of Neil Alexander is at 85th Street and at 83rd, Fredo the Magician.
Musical Entertainers will perform in front of these participating institutions:

  • 104th Street: El Museo del Barrio -- DJ Stormin Norman
  • 92nd Street: The Jewish Museum -- Quarteto Rodriguez Cuban Jewish All Stars
  • 89th Street: National Academy Museum & School -- Hayes Greenfield Jazz Band
  • 88th Street: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum -- People's Champs
  • 86th Street: Neue Galerie New York -- Pianist David Kaplan

A wide variety of additional entertainers will be featured along "Museum Mile" that evening, including: Fredo the Magician (83rd Street); Random Richards Ramble (86th Street); Juggler Josh (87th Street); Daisy Doodle's Parties, Magic, Facepainting & Balloons (89th Street); Silly Billy the Very Funny Clown (90th Street); Sammie & Tudie's Imagination Playhouse (93rd Street); and Paul Labarbera and Rockbeat Music Group (100th Street).

Some 40,000-50,000 people come to the festival.

One strategy is to head first to your favorite museum; mine is to head for places I have never visited before, or rarely get to. Another strategy is to start at the top and work your way downtown; another is to start in the middle.

Last year, I ventured into the Jewish Museum and was dazzled by the exhibit on the Coen Sisters of Baltimore (the year before, there was the most fascinating exhibit about Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H.A Rey.

This year, I am looking forward to seeing "Heinrich Kuehn and His American Circle: Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen," an exhibition focusing on the luminous work of this important Austrian photographer (on view through Aug. 27).

The Museum Mile Festival began as an initiative to spur the development of new museum audiences and to increase support for the arts during the fiscal crisis of the 1970s. Museum Mile was formed as a consortium by the museums that share the Fifth Avenue address. The first festival, held in June of 1978, was an instant success. Not only did it expose New Yorkers and NYC visitors to an incredible collection of New York's artistic riches, it also brought together disparate New Yorkers. From the barrios of East Harlem and the townhouses lining the Upper East Side, to the winding streets of the Village and the clustered neighborhoods of the outer-boroughs, people came to celebrate their shared pride in their city. Museum Mile Festival promoted public awareness through increased visibility, accessibility and attendance at all the museums, and brought many New Yorkers to upper Fifth Avenue for the first time.

Museum Mile Festival's reach now goes far beyond New York City. Thousands of tourists from around the country and world make their trip to Museum Mile Festival a yearly vacation tradition. Over 1.5 million people have taken part in this annual celebration since its inception, and because of the success of the festival and the work of consortium, the City of New York officially designated Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 105th streets as "Museum Mile", further cementing the area as one of the city¹s major cultural resources.

For further information, call 212-606-2296 or visit the festival Web site at MuseumMileFestival.org.

Check out the maps and schedule: museummilefestival.org/index.php/map-schedule.