Right off the Bowling Green subway stop in the financial district is a free museum worth visiting. The National Museum of the American Indian is in the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House. A great building that represents international trade and exploration now commemorates the native people and culture of America.
Admission to this museum is free because it is an extension of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Unlike the museum in Washington, DC, there is a focus on the art. American Indians from the Andes, Amazon, Planes, and Caribbean each have a unique style in the way they design and make their clothing, pottery and jewelry. The headdresses alone demonstrate the uniqueness of each cultural area from Patagonia to the Arctic.
I went the museum with an artist friend who spent two and a half hours in the museum sketching. I was not bored at all even though the exhibits should only take an hour to look through. I think the reason why I enjoyed my experience so much was because the everyday items were displayed like art, in glass cabinets and under dimmed lights. I was compelled to view each piece not only as representations of each nation but as individual art. There were many unique pieces from a statue made out of seal materials to look like the statue of liberty to a Chimu Jar representing a squash. The part that makes this museum most worth seeing is the collection of contemporary art at the end of the Infinity of Nations Exhibit. Each piece represents the lives and culture of the American Indian in unique and creative ways. One of the most unique pieces is made out of hubcaps, tires, chair legs, and PVC plastic. These items are arranged together to look like a walrus. I found this small wing contained the most stunning and moving pieces of the museum.
If you are looking for a cultural and artistic experience in New York this is a museum I recommend. I was reminded that even everyday items like a bowl can be considered art. I was inspired to view everything I experience with a more artistic eye. As I walked home from the museum I noticed the artistry in things I used to overlook, from cracks in sidewalks to patterns in people’s clothes. It is amazing what a little free culture can do to one’s frame of mind.
After your visit to the National Museum of the American Indian I recommend going across the street towards the river for a great view of the statue of liberty and continue your cultural experience at Oaxacana Revolucion de Taco.
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