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A Family-Friendly Guide to New York's Art Gallery Scene

Jordan Rhodes

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By Katharine Earnhardt

The New York gallery scene is one of the best in the world, but it's also SUPER intimidating; there are so many options that aren't always apparent or welcoming, and figuring out a route that's family friendly (i.e. near some snacks) is so tricky.  As the Founder of Mason Lane, a Brooklyn-based art advisory that styles walls nationwide, I'm into art and efficiency, and as a fellow mama I'm always all about family-friendly anything. SO, I wanted to share some ways to approach the New York gallery scene and have your kids enjoy the ride with you.  

 First, some basics:

1. Don't sweat. Galleries can be quiet, stark, and echo-y, and if your kids come in not bathed and making noise, that's OK. The gallery model is a retail one - people come in and out all the time. Some buy and some don't, and despite the moderately awkward and unwelcoming set up, it's totally fine to pop in, make noise, and take pics. 

2. Ask questions. Galleries will always have a staff member and some reading materials at the front desk. Depending on the gallery, it could be a 22 year old receptionist OR the owner. Either way, ask that person to tell you about the show. The answers you get will likely be much more informative and fulfilling than any marketing collateral that you grabbed and will likely never read. 

3. The Two Rules. No touching, and no wet, dripping foods are really the only two rules to follow in the gallery. The second issue is under your control, and the first is straight forward. I do, however, recommend taking snacks on any gallery hop, and Cheerios in those no-spill containers are an all-around win.  

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Next, the gallery hop

The Lower East Side is a great place to take kids and enjoy some art. The galleries are small and manageable, they lack pretension (in general), and there's a wide variety of artworks that would be amusing to people big and small.  Plus, there are retail shops and restaurants everywhere (unlike in the Chelsea gallery district), so taking a break is easy and encouraged. Here's a recommended route: 

1. Rachel Uffner Gallery - A contemporary art gallery, representing an impressive collection of emerging to mid-career artists that are gaining recognition on an international level. 

2. Anastasia Photo - 143 Ludlow Street. One of the city's only true documentary photography galleries that has branched out into mixed media works including collage and painting.

3. Denny Gallery - 261 Broome Street. Specializing in emerging artists that produce compelling, beautiful pieces that are engaged with contemporary issues, materials and technologies.

4, McKenzie Fine Art -55 Orchard Street. A Sizable gallery space showing mid-career artists who work in painting, drawing, and sculpture.

5. Gavin Brown Enterprise - 291 Grand Street. Known for edgy emerging art. 

6. Nathalie Karg Gallery - 291 Grand Street. Showing a colorful mix of abstract contemporary art across various media

7. Canada - 333 Broome Street - One of the most established and largest galleries on the Lower East Side, representing artists with a gritty New York aesthetic

For more on Mason Lane Art Advisory head to www.masonlaneart.com or check out their Instagram at @masonlane_art