Taubman Museum: A Fun & Funky Museum!
A small-town museum with a big heart and filled with fun!
by Susan Marie Ward
An Excellent Package!
How can you not love a museum that has architecture that stops you in your tracks, orange tile restrooms, and is free! The Taubman Museum, in Roanoke Virginia, combines an excellent art collection, intriguing special exhibits and programs, and an Art Adventure maker-space. It's mission is to bring people and art together for discovery, learning and enjoyment. It's a museum worth visiting!
You can truly use the word "unique" with this building. The 81,000 square foot space was designed by Randall Stout and completed in 2008. It's a mix of glass and metal and dramatic angles. The shapes and materials reflect the surrounding mountains and valleys of Appalachia. Roanoke, Virginia, a town of about 100,000, has a gem of a building in its downtown.
All Are Welcome!
The Taubman Museum, unlike some art museums, feels welcoming to all. The intriguing spaces, the welcoming staff, the free admission, the Art Venture creativity center, and the special needs art programs say, "You too, are welcome here!"
More Than Art Hanging on the Walls
The Taubman Museum has a collection of over 2,000 works of art and 15-20 rotating exhibits each year. They also maintain a very full schedule of special events including summer camp, a Sidewalk Art Show, an International Wine Festival, and one I want to go to: Bourbon + Bacon!
Their Art Venture creativity center for children and teens is fun! The fourteen interactive maker-spaces are regularly changed, connecting to special exhibits and the permanent collection. When I was there, there were parents with toddlers, groups of young friends, and even teenagers, all fully engaged in a multitude of activities.
When you go, be sure to enjoy their cafe - an unexpected delight for a museum in a small town. Staff was friendly, menu choices were intriguing, and it tasted delicious! How can you go wrong with craft beer and 13 different types of loose tea! The Cafe is light and bright with floor to ceiling windows. And if that's not bright and cheerful enough, you can sit outside on the patio. I was enthralled with the Community Journals sitting on a table in the Cafe. Colorful, welcoming journals with a variety of writing utensils for visitors to jot down thoughts and comments or to read what others had written. While I was there, several people were thoughtfully writing in them. This is a museum where you will look with new eyes at everything they do!
The Visitor Experience
While art and exhibits might bring people into a museum, it's a positive visitor experience that engages them -
brings them back, encourages them to volunteer, or inspires them to donate money. The Taubman Museum has a well thought out visitor experience. It's even written into their strategic plan! The entrance lobby is jaw-dropping with it's 77-foot glass angles. And, to make it easy, the welcome desk is immediately inside the door. The lobby space is filled with attractive tables and chairs, many of the tables set up with checkers. People were chatting, waiting for friends, taking a break, and playing checkers. I loved seeing a boy and his grandpa playing a very engrossed game of checkers.
There is plenty of seating throughout the museum. There are free lockers. And the restrooms may be the cleanest I've ever seen in a museum. And! The restroom walls are covered in orange tile! Most importantly, the Taubman wraps all of its visitor-oriented amenities with hospitality. Every staff person I spoke with was positive, helpful, and committed to the museum. I was impressed!
Through what seems to be a combination of good hiring and training, the Taubman Museum of Art provides excellent hospitality to all who come though the their doors. Every staff person I spoke with was friendly, helpful, and welcoming.
The Taubman offers opportunities to spark curiosity, enjoy moments of awe and wonder, and engage in social connection, all important elements for building mental wellness. While their strategic plan outline doesn't use the words wellness or wellbeing (I dream of the day when museums do that!), they are very focused on audiences with diverse needs such as their art-based therapy program. This program addresses individuals with low vision, disabilities, or neurodiverse issues.
The museum itself is a visual surprise, both inside and out. The rooftop viewing area was a fun place to view the Roanoke skyline. One of the exhibits I went to a few years back had NO labels! An opportunity to admire and contemplate and imagine.
How to visit:
Being that the Taubman is free, you can spend half an hour today, and all day tomorrow, whatever fits your schedule or state of mind. Checking their website ahead of time will prepare you for whatever rotating exhibits or special events are going on. However, it's an easy museum to stop in on spur of the moment and wander through easily. When I was there, I was told that families sometimes come for the whole day, taking a break in the cafe, and then continuing their interactive fun.
Website: Taubman Museum, Roanoke, Virginia.
Consider Visiting the Taubman Museum!
It's a museum worth visiting for its hospitality, it's art, and the visual drama of the space.
Have you visited the Taubman Museum? What thoughts or tips do you have?