Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: Backpack the world and time travel all in one day

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The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, located in downtown Kansas City, is stuffed with rooms of art and artifacts spanning from ancient India to 18th century Europe. Visiting the museum is like backpacking the world and time traveling at the same time—no passport or time machine necessary.

But that is not even the best part. The most fantastic part is that general admission is FREE. Go as many times as you want. Stay for 10 minutes or eight hours. It is all the same.

If you stay for a marathon art session or just a quick visit, do not miss the architecture in the café, which is located in a 15th-century Italian courtyard. The space has a tremendously high ceiling that gives the impression of being outdoors and features a lovely fountain in the center. It is like sipping café au lait and crunching on biscotti in Europe without leaving Kansas City.

Psst… here is a secret to save more moolah—the museum has a parking garage that costs a steep eight dollar. Skip it and park for free at the corner of 45th Street and Rockhill Road. It is a small lot so get there early. Spend the money saved on a coffee in the café or a trinket from the gift shop.

Kalie Hudson, coordinator of marketing outreach at the Nelson-Atkins, urges Jewell students to explore the encyclopedic museum, which offers both historical artifacts as well as art.

Speaking of encyclopedic, the museum most likely keeps an encyclopedia in its Spencer Art Reference Library on the second floor of the Bloch building. The museum encourages that Kansas Citians use the library to inspire their own work as well as use the library resources to uncover the context of rare objects they may have inherited.

The museum is not all hush-hush librarian types—the Nelson-Atkins excels at community engagement by featuring events for all types and most of which are FREE!

“The museum offers a myriad of programming that complements our general collection as well as our exhibitions. We feature festivals, talks, classes and activities all open to the general public,” said Hudson.

Here are the offerings:

Nelson Atkins hosts Third Thursdays, which is a monthly event that boasts free music and entertainment. The next event will be held Sept. 15 with the theme “Home is where Havana is” featuring “Cuba Bound: Photographs by Jesse A. Fernández.”

Salsa dance demos will be a part of the night’s festivities, so wear a full skirt or let that chest hair out for a breather. There will also be a full bar available to get you on the dance floor in the first place.

“Luxury: Treasures of the Roman Empire” is the current high-profile exhibition. There is an admission fee – boo hiss – but the exhibit is probably worth it; $6 with student ID $12 without. It ends Oct. second so don’t tarry!

During the recurring program, “Reel to Real,” a documentary is screened which showcases a social issue then a discussion is held afterward with scholars and subject experts.

The next “Reel to Real” is Sept. 17 featuring “The Destruction of Memory.” The event is free, but tickets are required in advance.

The Nelson-Atkins likes to celebrate with festivals. The next festival is “American Indian Cultural Celebration,” Sept. 25. Music, dance performances, story telling, games and Native American inspired food can be expected. And hey, guess what? It’s free.

After that, check out the “Day of the Dead” festival Nov. 6. I’m guessing there may be a few sugar skulls and creepy votives amidst the museum’s regular repertoire.

Who is ready to finger paint? Pick up where you left off, probably sixth grade art class, the Nelson-Atkins offers many art classes on a range of topics. Some classes include free instruction and materials while others charge a fee—take your pick!

The museum’s list of events also includes talks and performances abound, along with story times for the munchkins. Be sure to check out the full lineup at their website.

That is an overload of information, so here is what to do: this weekend go get lost in the museum. Once fully explored, go to an event or class to dig even deeper. It’s free, so take the opportunity.

Really jazzed about the Nelson-Atkins Museum?

“The Nelson-Atkins is always looking for dedicated volunteers that can offer time and resources to a variety of different departments and initiatives,” Hudson said.

In addition, the museum offers internships and participates in the Mellon-Curatorial Fellowship program

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