Museum of Arts and Design

Museum of Arts and Design

Formerly known as the American Craft Museum, the Museum of Arts of Design in New York is one of the cultural icons of the city. Also known as MAD, the museum celebrates the creation process in the fields of art, craft and design. The museum is dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of mainly 20th century objects made from a wide range of materials, including stone, glass, fiber, clay and wood.

The Museum of Arts and Design successfully shows how objects, materials and designs are used in a wide number of professional fields, ranging from architecture, interior design, technology and art.

Museum of Arts and Design

History of the Museum

The idea of a craft museum was thought up by Aileen Osborn Webb, America’s foremost craft patron and benefactor, who established the American Craftsmen’s Council in 1942. The original mission of the council was to bring to the public’s attention the wonderful world of craft in an era where everything was being machine produced. The main idea of the council was to promote excellence in craftspeople, through educational programs, competitions and others.

In 1956, the Museum of Contemporary Crafts was established on 53rd Street, New York and continued in its mission to display and promote the works of top craftspeople, artists and designers. In 1986, the museum moved to its present location where it takes up four floors of space. Designed by Roche-Dinkeloo, the museum (named later the Museum of Arts and Design) debuted with the exhibition, “Craft Today: Poetry of the Physical”. There are plans to move to a bigger location in 2008.

Things to Do and See

From the moment that visitors step inside the Museum of Arts and Design, they are greeted with a soaring atrium and small intimate galleries that serve as a backdrop for one of the most impressive collections of wood, clay, metal, glass, fiber and plastic materials in the world.

Everything is considered art in this museum, as long as the inventors used innovation and expertise to fashion their objects. Visitors can find art genres ranging from abstract to figurative, and from downright functional to whimsically decorative.

The Permanent Collection
The Museum of Arts and Design offers visitors the chance to view an impressive permanent collection comprising over 2000 objects from an entire range of mediums – clay, wood, fiber and others. The collection contains items as small as jewelry to custom-built furniture. The permanent collection focuses mainly on American designers, but also contains works by artists in other areas of the world, including Australia, Asia and Europe.

Changing Exhibitions
Besides the permanent collection available on location, the Museum of Arts and Design also includes a series of exhibitions that change regularly. Examples of current exhibitions include “Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting” which explores how artists use fibers in an unorthodox way and “Contemporary Netsuke: Masterful Miniatures”, which explores the wonderful world of miniature carvings which originated in 17th century Japan.

Daily Tours
Every day, twice a day (at 11am and 1pm), a docent-led tour takes drop-in visitors to view the current exhibitions at the museum. The tour is offered free of charge after paying the museum’s admission fee. Tours leave from the front desk.

Insider Hour Tours
Anyone who wants to gain an insider’s view of the goings-on in the Museum of Arts and Design should try to make this tour which takes place on the first Thursday of the month between 6 and 7pm. This is an informal tour of the current exhibitions that is taken with staff and volunteers of the museum.

The Craft Discovery Program
Geared towards children from K-12, this program is run every weekday and offers kids a great way to discover the wonderful world of crafts. The museum and its media are introduced and children are explained the entire concept of creating a work of art, beginning with inspiration and rounding off with the end product. Children are allowed to express themselves freely through a hands-on studio experience, focusing on fields such as sculpture, applied design and collage. The tours and workshops are age-appropriate and are adapted according to the level and special characteristics of the visiting group.

Sunday Morning Workshops
Every Sunday, between 2 and 4pm, children ages 6 and up can experience, together with accompanying adults, a fun workshop that is based on the museum’s current exhibitions. The workshops take on a variety of shapes, including interactive tours of the museum; hands-on, age-appropriate craft activities and take-home projects. For a minimal fee, including the cost of materials, young participants can delve into the rich world of arts and crafts and get to truly appreciate it.

Museum of Arts and Design NYC

The Museum of Arts and Design is not merely a static collection of items. It is a buzzing and active cultural center that attracts artists, visitors, students and craftspeople that share a common interest in the functionality and beauty of art and crafts. The museum has presented over 550 exhibitions in its history, and has more than 275,000 people walk through its doors every year.

Due to the growing interdisciplinary nature of the crafts field and to accommodate the rising number of people wishing to make use of the museum’s services, MAD will relocate to its new permanent home in 2008, to 2 Columbus Circle in New York City. The new building – designed by architect Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture - will include some exciting features such an interesting terracotta façade and fritted glass.

Although the museum has grown beyond the wildest dreams of Aileen Osborn Webb, it has not lost touch of the basic mission of her organization – to honor the material and techniques used to create works of true art, all the while celebrating the process in which the artist engages to get to the finished product.

Visiting the Museum

Conveniently situated at 40 West 53rd Street in New York, the Museum of Arts and Design is open daily from 10am until 6pm. On Thursdays, it stays open later until 8 pm. There is a reduction available for students and seniors and Thursday is a "pay-as-much-as-you-want" day between 6 and 8pm. Children under 12 years of age and museum members do not pay an admission fee. The museum is closed on major holidays.

The museum is accessible to wheel chair bound visitors and it can also arrange sign language interpretation for tours and programs. Tour groups (with a minimum of 15 participants) are led around the museum at a reduced fee.

Location: at 40 West 53rd Street, New York, New York.
Phone: 212-299-7777

Click here to visit Museum of Arts and Design official website