A One-Of-A-Kind Washington D.C. Museum Guide

There are dozens of world-class museums in Washington D.C., many of which are hidden from guidebooks.

This one-of-a-kind guide should point you in the right direction of unusual and creative museums that will teach you about a new art or cultural scene from across the world. Who knew that there was more to D.C. than just politics! Let’s take a look.

Artechouse
Artechouse. Photo by: Vivian Bauer

Artechouse

1238 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024

Artechouse Interactive
Artechouse Interactive. Photo by: Vivian Bauer

 

Artechouse Groovy
Artechouse Groovy. Photo by: Vivian Bauer

Artechouse describes itself as “the first innovative platform for experiential, genre-bending, one-of-a-kind multimedia art exhibitions and explorations.” This is very true.  I have never seen anything like it. Artechouse gives viewers unique interactive experiences that successfully blend art and technology. This gallery is quite small, yet packed with experimental projections and interactions that are usually made by one featured artist. In order to visit, you must book tickets in advance. For adults, admission costs USD $24 per person and is worth every penny. Take a deep dive into experimental art and I promise that you will never go back!

Renwick Gallery

1661 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006

Renwick Gallery
Renwick Gallery. Photo by: Vivian Bauer

 

Renwick Gallery Burning Man
Renwick Gallery Burning Man. Photo by: Vivian Bauer

The Renwick Gallery is a smaller museum across the street from the White House that highlights American craft and decorative arts. In recent years, the Renwick has featured otherworldly exhibits such as: Burning Man, which included a VR experience and incredible large-scale sculptures. It is currently showing its yearly exhibit on crafts, including: fiber arts, mosaic, glasswork, and more. If you are drained from the larger Smithsonian museums, I would highly recommend a quick trip to the Renwick. Since it belongs to the larger Smithsonian consortium, admission is free. 

National Portrait Gallery / American Art Museum

F St NW &, 8th St NW, Washington, DC 20004

Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery
FACEBOOK Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery

This is my all-time favorite museum. It brings back very nostalgic memories of hanging out in the open air courtyard with my best friends. Even if you aren’t interested in art or portraiture, the courtyard itself is worth the trip. You can enter for free and either have lunch, catch up with a friend, or get some work done there. Surrounding the courtyard is a larger building – home to the Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. Here, you can see all of the presidential portraits and many more iconic portraits of figures who made big impact on American history. The American Art Museum displays work from 17th century artists to contemporaries. I would recommend prioritizing the top floor where you can see the vibrant neon map of the United States of America by video artist Nam June Paik. Since these museums belong to the Smithsonian, admission is also free.

Planet Word Museum

925 13th St NW, Washington, DC 20005

Planet Word Museum
FACEBOOK Planet Word Museum

Planet Word is one of the newest museums in the area. It’s made for all of the globetrotters and language fanatics out there. Exhibits include: “First Words”, “Where Do Words Come From”, “The Spoken World”, and many others that dissect language across the globe and feature their vast diversities. Other exhibits combine art and music with language. For example, the “Speaking Willow Tree” exhibition is an interactive art installation by contemporary artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer that plays phrases in hundreds of different languages as you walk around it. Admission is free, however, it is suggested that you give a donation of about USD $15.

Museum of the Palestinian People

1900 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Palestine Museum US
FACEBOOK Palestine Museum US

Even though I already mentioned this museum in a previous article about Palestinian museums around the world, I wanted to reemphasize the importance of this museum and encourage even more people to visit it. This is the first museum in Washington D.C. to focus on Palestinian people and their culture, history, and resilience. What is wonderful about this museum other than its fascinating focus, is that you can visit virtually or in person. At the moment, there are several online exhibits, including: “Intersections: Palestinian and African American Art for Social Justice.” Also, coming soon is an exhibit on Palestinian Women artists. If you would like to visit the museum in person book a time here. Admission is USD $5 per person.

National Museum of Women in the Arts

1250 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005

National Museum of Women in the Arts
FACEBOOK National Museum of Women in the Arts

This museum is empowering and inspiring for all. Gender inequality continues to persist especially in the art and museum world. According to the museum’s website, “Just 11% of all acquisitions at prominent American museums over the past decade were of work by women artists.” This is where the National Museum of Women in the Arts comes in to try and bridge that gap. Their permanent collection features work from across the globe with artists, such as: Frida Kahlo and Amy Sherald. Right now the museum is exhibiting “Paper Routes – Women to Watch 2020” and “Julie Chen: True to Life” which both feature women artists that work in unusual mediums, including: books and paper. Admission costs USD $10 per person for adults and is free for youth under the age of 18.

Glenstone

12100 Glen Rd, Potomac, MD 20854

Glenstone Museum
FACEBOOK Glenstone Museum

While Glenstone Museum is a bit farther away from the city, it is definitely worth the trek. As a contemporary open air art museum, Glenstone blends architecture with sculpture and its natural surroundings. I would say that this museum has a special focus on minimalist art with artists, including: Richard Serra, Eva Hesse, and Sol leWitt. Even if minimalist art is not your forte, you can still wander the grounds and admire the gorgeous landscape and curation. This museum is extremely popular and you need to book a ticket and time in advance. I would recommend booking your visit several months ahead. Admission is free.

Vivian Bauer

Editor

Vivian is passionate about everything related to music, art, and language. When traveling, she loves to walk for miles, try all kinds of food, and visit every museum. She has lived in Singapore, Belgium, and Brazil while hoping to one day travel to Mongolia and East Timor.

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