The Barnes' big beginning

In the main gallery , Matisse's "The Dance" cavorts above the windows. Beneath are his "Seated Riffian" (left) and Picasso's "The Peasants." Artworks are arranged as they were in the Merion museum.
In the main gallery , Matisse's "The Dance" cavorts above the windows. Beneath are his "Seated Riffian" (left) and Picasso's "The Peasants." Artworks are arranged as they were in the Merion museum.

At the museum's new home, a grand opening celebration.

Posted: May 26, 2012

It took decades for Albert Barnes to amass his eclectic collection and years of negotiations to get it into a new home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, so its momentous opening weekend will be celebrated with 56 consecutive hours of free events.

"This really is a celebration, and we want to do as much as possible, since public programming is clearly new to the Barnes," said Kathleen Greene, the public programming manager.

Most of the timed tickets for the opening weekend sold out weeks ago, but the Barnes is holding back a few tickets a day for walk-up visitors, plus whatever may be turned back by those who bought them earlier.

While there will be a lot of performances over the weekend, especially in the late evening and overnight hours, much of the daytime hours, particularly between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., will allow families, and especially children, to do hands-on artistic activities. Many of the "free" presentations are inside the museum, available only to ticketed folks. Many daytime events will be on the Fountain Plaza lawn on the Parkway side of the museum near 20th Street where viewers can walk by.

The celebration starts at 10 a.m. Saturday with a performance by the Tindley Temple Choir in the museum, where the musical events will take place. Barnes was friendly with the church's early-20th-century pastor, Charles Albert Tindley, who was considered one of the fathers of gospel music. At the same time, there will be opportunities for children to do hands-on clay sculpture and painting.

At 11:30 a.m., the music will turn hands-on, with the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra playing Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. Between movements, Black Pearl's artistic director, Jeri Lynne Johnson, will invite young audience members to come to the podium to hold the baton and to get a conducting lesson from her.

The afternoon on the Fountain Plaza will concentrate on horticulture and storytelling. According to Greene, Barnes was adamant that art thrived when studied in concert with other arts and sciences, so the grounds around the original Barnes museum in Merion were meant to be in sync with the art there.

At 1:30, there will be seminars on botanical illustration and how to do windowsill and patio gardening in the home. And there will be several hours of storytelling, primarily about art, for children.

Saturday evening, back inside, will be given over primarily to music, while the galleries will remain open. There will be jazz (the Tony Miceli Quartet at 6:30), choral music (the Philadelphia Gay Men's Chorus at 7:45), Afro-Caribbean music (Bomple at 8:30), and New Orleans-style brass band music (the Hoppin' John Orchestra at 10:30). From 12:30 to 3 a.m., a DJ will be in charge of various genres.

For those looking at the art overnight, La Colombe will sponsor a coffee tasting from 3 to 6 a.m. And for those who want to wake up, there will be a yoga sunrise session at 7.

Sunday, throughout the morning and afternoon, outside will be given back to horticulture and storytelling, with some musical and dance performances, most featuring school groups. At noon, for example, the Baldwin School B-Flats will do a handbell and singing performance. At 3 p.m., there will be dance by the Philadelphia High School for Girls, and at 3:30, the School District of Philadelphia jazz band will be on stage.

Sunday evening will bring mixed media, which would be a favorite of Barnes'. At 8 p.m., for example, the Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra will perform. The Olive Dance Theatre will do pieces that evoke some of the Barnes art at 8:30. At 10, there will be a spoken-word event.

From midnight to 6 a.m. Monday, movies selected by the Philadelphia Film Society will be served with more coffee offered by La Colombe. During the day, along with the horticultural and children's art events continuing from Saturday and Sunday, there will be several talks about the Barnes art to introduce the collections to new and old visitors.

"This is all just a preview of what we will be doing ongoing," Greene said. "We intend to do First Friday events and more music and talks and things with horticulture.

"The opening weekend events are just a taste for people who may be unfamiliar with the Barnes, and those we are welcoming back," Greene said. "We are trying to make this all fun, so you don't realize you are learning something important as well."


Free Events Near the Barnes

The Barnes Foundation is at 2025 Ben Franklin Parkway. Information: 215-278-7000, www.barnesfoundation.org.

Saturday

10-11:30 a.m. Art activity, Fresh Artists; Fountain Plaza. Explore the Barnes collection through art making with Fresh Artists. Re-create your favorite Barnes masterpiece to take home & display on a mini-easel of your own. Fun for all ages.

10-11:30 a.m. Art activity, Mural Arts Program; Fountain Plaza.

10-11:30 a.m. Art activity, Philadelphia Sculpture Gym; Fountain Plaza. Hands-on mold making and sculpting demonstrations by the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym.

2:30-4 p.m. Art activity, SITA (Spanish Immersion Through Art); Fountain Plaza. Participants will engage in art-making projects while learning Spanish. 3-4 p.m. Barnes 4 Senses Action Stations; Fountain Plaza. Art and nature collide in an array of hands-on activities.

3-4 p.m. Horticultural activity, Whole Foods; Fountain Plaza. How to grow the best herbs and vegetables.

7 p.m. Tour of the gardens; Fountain Plaza. Barnes horticulture staff or instructors will lead a tour of the garden and explain how the arboretum in Merion influenced the planting structure and design of the landscape at the Philadelphia campus. Admission is on a first-come basis.

Sunday

8 a.m. Tour of the Gardens; Fountain Plaza. A repeat of Saturday's event.

2:30 p.m. Art activity, SITA (Spanish Immersion Through Art); Fountain Plaza.  

2:30 p.m. Create a Masterpiece: Fresh Artists; Fountain Plaza. Explore the Barnes Collection through art making.

3 p.m. 4 Senses Action Stations, Fountain Plaza.

3 p.m. Horticultural activity, Whole Foods; Fountain Plaza.

6 p.m. Tour of the Gardens; Fountain Plaza.

Monday

11 a.m. Tour of the Gardens; Fountain Plaza.

2:30 p.m. Art activity, SITA (Spanish Immersion Through Art); Fountain Plaza.

2:30 p.m. Art activity, Fresh Artists; Fountain Plaza.

3 p.m. 4 Senses Action Stations, Fountain Plaza.

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