Red Grooms’ Cartoony, Kid-Friendly New York Pops Up at the Children’s Museum


Red Grooms' three-dimensional painting of Rockefeller Center, and one of his preliminary sketches for it.

Red Grooms’ three-dimensional painting of Rockefeller Center, and one of his preliminary sketches for it. Credit: Children’s Museum of Manhattan.

While it may feel like a discovery for Brooklynites who rarely venture to the Upper West Side, the Children’s Museum of Manhattan is no secret to city kids and visiting families. Their outdoor water play area, City Splash, is perfect on a hot sunny day, and their inventive shows, like the Grinch’s Holiday Workshop, are a great way to escape the cold weather. This week I took my preschooler to catch the “Red Grooms’ New York City” exhibit, before it closes in January.

The museum has plenty of permanent exhibits to keep your kids entertained. On the first floor, they will literally burn off energy in “Eat, Sleep, Play,” which explains how your body works through interactive elements like slides, stationary bikes, and a sensored, musical dance room. The second floor is for all fans of Dora and Diego— inside the themed rooms, kids can build a rainbow bridge, play bongos and pretend to run a fruit stand. The third floor is my emerging reader’s favorite, with a giant talking alligator that you can feed the alphabet to. There’s also an area for younger kids including mirrors, dress up, and a fire truck to drive.

After the hubbub of the lower floors, the fourth floor was a quiet retreat. Here, tucked in a quiet enclave is “Red Grooms’ New York City,” an energetic show that encapsulates the spirit of the bustling city. Red Grooms is a Nashville-born, New-Yorker-at-heart artist, who became well known in the ‘60s for his staged “Happenings” and his “sculpto-pictoramas” installations. He’s a painter, draftsman, sculptor and printmaker and his three-dimensional, multimedia art has a rowdy sense of humor that feels equally cartoony and absurd, with odd angles and grinning faces. The curation of the exhibit is thoughtful and brings kids, and their parents, through the creative process. In the “Pop Up Construction” of Rockefeller Center, we see the old photos of New York that inspired him, the sketches and lithograph he created in conceiving the piece, and the way he brought it all together in the completed artwork. Kids are invited to read New York City picture books and compose their own vision, which they can then create out of accompanying blocks and sketch pads that litter the room.

Red Grooms' Wollman Rink. Credit: Meredith Craig de Pietro, courtesy of the Children's Museum of Manhattan.

Red Grooms’ Wollman Rink. Credit: Meredith Craig de Pietro, courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.

The collection is only eight works, but each one is so layered that the show still feels impactful. After looking at “Wollman Rink,” a bi-level diorama, my son was given his own box to decorate with markers, colored tape, fabric and model magic. It was late in the afternoon, mid-week, and we were the only ones in the room. For a parent used to over-crowded kids’ activities, this was definitely one unique New York experience. My son spent some time working on his dioramaand then we left the museum inspired to see our rainy, chilly city in a new light.

We didn’t have to go far to find more whimsy.

Although we usually look forward to a Roasted Japanese Pumpkin Sandwich and Shanghai-style dumplings from the vegan Peacefood Cafe, this time we got sidelined by a magical treehouse/ restaurant called Treat House that specializes in the niche market of Rice Krispie Treats. Yes, that’s right: an entire restaurant dedicated to Rice Krispie Treats. My son ordered a candy corn topped treat ($2) while I went with plain ($2). You know what they say, “Only in New York.”

Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 W. 83rd Street (between Broadway and Amsterdam), Admission: $11 (children and adults); Children under 1 year are free. Hours: Sunday- Friday, 10am- 5pm; Saturday, 10am- 7pm

Peacefood Cafe, 460 Amsterdam Avenue (at 82nd Street), Hours: 10am-10pm everyday

Treat House, 452 Amsterdam Avenue (between 81st & 82nd St.), Hours: Mon- Wed, 7:30am- 10:00pm; Thurs-Fri, 7:30am- 11:00pm; Sat, 9:00am-11:00pm; Sun, 9:00am-10:00pm

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