We visit Heritage Green, Greenville’s urban arts and cultural campus, about once a week. Some days it is to return or pick up a few new books from the Hughes Main Library, other times to utilize our membership to the Children’s Museum of the Upstate (although we go more often in the winter when the weather is bad). It seems that we mostly visit the Upcountry History Museum when there is a new exhibit, although sometimes twice/three times during its run if the boys really like it (like Storyland!). Greenville County Museum of Art has a great Sunday art program for kids which we’ve previously enjoyed, and the Greenville Little Theater has some really great shows (currently showing Rock & Roll is Here to Stay, with Footloose coming up in September). But it’s the last of the Heritage Green museums that seems the least often visited, although it’s hard to understand why, as the Bob Jones Museum & Gallery features fantastic exhibits that are fun for the whole family, such as the current “The Art of Sleuthing.”
The Museum & Gallery at Heritage Green is a satellite of the Bob Jones University Museum & Gallery. The rotating exhibits of Old Masters complement the Museum & Gallery at Bob Jones collection, and include works by Rubens, van Dyck and Reni. One of the highlights of the current “The Art of Sleuthing” exhibit is Lucas Cranach’s Madonna and Child, with the fascinating story of Nazi-looted art provenance that ends with the painting recovered and on display today, on loan from the North Carolina Museum of Art.
The idea behind “The Art of Sleuthing” is to discover and appreciate works of art through exploration and investigation of various mysteries of the art world. By viewing the backs of paintings, x-raying art and comparing forgeries to the real deal, the intriguing world of art heists comes alive for adults and kids alike. A scavenger hunt leads children (ages 5-12) through the museum in search of “top secret” clues that teach them about the identification of artwork, how professionals examine these pieces, and the forensics behind catching the thieves and forgers of the art world.
On the second floor we arrived at the Children’s Learning Center. Lauris and Mikus joined the A&A Detective Agency to find clues and solve crimes using observation, logic and tools. The room is intricately set up to contain all the clues needed to solve four separate mysteries, the information color coded to match the mystery in need of solving. Both the boys enjoyed these mysteries immensely, and the additional activities – fingerprinting, dress-up, a book nook and photo booth – kept Vilis (sort of) entertained while his brothers fought crime.
|Vilis wasn't happy about the crime going unsolved... (photobooth fun!)|
There are multiple educational reasons to visit “The Art of Sleuthing” with your children, but as the museum was almost empty on our last visit, our top reason might have been that we weren’t disturbing other patrons with the toddler temper tantrums or over-exuberance, the usual deterrent from visiting museums. Also, admission fees are low, adults/$7, seniors/$6, students $5 and children under 12 free. (Note that the Hughes Main Library has a museum pass program that allows you to reserve a family pass to the museum with your library card, for free admission.) Finally, I want to stress that this is not your average art museum. The interactive, child-friendly exhibit piqued both boys interest in a subject that is rather hard to teach to children their age. Of course it is important to discuss with your children beforehand that they may not touch the paintings, as well as to heed the no food and drink rule, but the M&G does not have the sterile feel of many art museums and it encourages interaction with the subject matter. If we didn’t have the toddler with I would have been able to delve even deeper into the intriguing stories within the exhibit, and to share it with the two older boys who were definitely interested in the mysteries of these old masters. It's still a small enough space that it can be comfortable viewed in a couple of hours, although you might want to budget more if you plan on viewing all the film segments.
For more information on museum hours and the exhibit, see the museum’s website. Guided Tours are available at designated times for $3 in addition to general admission, although the scavenger hunt, access to the children’s area, and extremely helpful, informative, knowledgeable & understanding personnel are included in admission. I hope you’ll opt for exploring the Museum & Gallery on a visit to Heritage Green now that you know what’s there – how it’s remained a hidden treasure of Greenville, now that’s a mystery!