raleigh museum of art 1As a New York City dweller, I have access to some seriously great art. Aside from the museums – I live within walking distance of the Metropolitan, the Guggenheim, The Whitney and, if I’m feeling ambitious in the walking department, The Museum of Modern Art there are the galleries of Chelsea and 57th Street, the downtown art scene, Brooklyn. So when I travel to smaller cities in the U.S., I’m not expecting to be wowed by the art scene.  Well, The North Carolina Museum of Art wowed me.First, there’s the price: always free. I cannot tell you how impressed I was by this. And how lovely it was to see families, and tourists, and young couples, and groups of teenaged boys (!) looking at the exhibits. Making art accessible to everyone is so so important. And Raleigh does it at a lot of museums, not just NCMA. The North Carolina Museum of Natural History, (the southeast’s largest Natural History Museum), The North Carolina Museum of History, and the Raleigh City Museum (temporarily closed for renovations) are all free. And admission to the newly renovated Contemporary Art Museum in the heart of the new, hip, warehouse district is only $5.

Next, there’s a building itself. A recent $138 million extension is light filled and welcoming, its white walls allowing the art to shine. And what a collection: from old European Masters  (maybe not all the best quality – but still, impressive) to a room full of Rodin sculptures (and I do mean FULL), to a giant and spectacular Anselm Keifer, to a room filled with both a huge Alex Katz and an equally enormous Frank Stella, that somehow seem to complement rather than fight each other.  There’s something for every taste. Even an impressive Judaica collection. Who knew?

Step outside, and you’re in a sculpture garden. I cannot tell a lie – the nearly 100 degree weather kept me from
exploring much of it,  but it boasts 164 acres of sculptures  both big and small, including a series of etchings – A Closer Look, by Tim Purus – that invite you to bring crayon and paper and make your own rubbings.

After all that art, it was time for food! Because I think it’s some kind of law – you can’t go to the South without trying the ‘cue.

Disclosure: I won this trip to Raleigh at an event hosted by the Great Raleigh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Photo of Thomas Sayre’s Gyre courtesy of GRCVB/visitRaleigh.com