Recently my husband and I were looking for a holiday fun adventure in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. Every year we try to make it a point to go to Metamora, Indiana for their annual Christmas walk. This year, in the hustle and bustle of all the festivities leading to the holidays, our only weekend to visit Metamora turned out to be rainy and dreary. These aren’t exactly prime conditions for walking around outside all evening. We searched through Cincinnati events looking for something affordable, interesting, and a little bit different than the traditional holiday hot spots. After narrowing it down to a few options, we agreed that visiting the Taft Museum of Art’s Antique Christmas exhibit seemed like our best bet. We were definitely not disappointed!
True confession here. I’ve lived in the Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky area my entire life and have never visited the Taft Museum of Art. I tend to take the convenience of our cities’ beautiful art museums for granted and I’m not sure why. I’m always planning to go, but typically don’t make time. We didn’t wind up with enough time to explore the entire facility, but we did make it through the Antique Christmas Exhibit, as well as a scurried viewing of the Paris to New York exhibit before they closed.
About the Museum
You can find quite a bit of detail about the museum on their website: https://taftmuseum.org/. The homepage gives the perfect description, “Cincinnati’s home for art and an oasis in downtown Cincinnati.” It truly is. Built in 1820 and established as a National Landmark, the front building itself exudes old world charm landscaped with an eye-catching modern design. Even though it’s a rather large facility at this point, it has a quaint welcoming atmosphere. Admission is a mere $10 per person and allows access to all the exhibits. Once you’ve received your pass you walk through a cozy and accommodating café. Here we saw a nice little gift shop, coat check, facilities, and a space for creative crafts for little ones. The environment is set to create a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere to all who enter. If we had arrived earlier, we would’ve really enjoyed having a warm cup of coffee or tea and a snack while we discussed the pieces that impressed us most after our tour. From this area, there are stairs leading up to the next floor for the main exhibits, all of which were in the historic home. For any concerned about accessibility, there is an elevator available as well.
Antique Christmas: (November 2nd – January 6th)
Featured in the Historic House and Sinton Gallery, I say kudos to whoever came up with the design of this exhibit. Local collectors loan their antique Christmas memorabilia and it is displayed throughout the permanent museum exhibits. I had anticipated walking through a section of Christmas overload (which would have definitely made me happy too). Instead, because of how the exhibit is designed, you get to take time to experience the artifacts and collections of the entire museum. As you’re admiring the Christmas creations from around the world and vast periods, you also learn about the different parts of the permanent collection that might otherwise be overlooked. The museum’s rooms are set up as the Tafts, Longworths, and other notable residents would have enjoyed them. You truly absorb history as you journey from room to room.
One element I really enjoyed about the different collection of Christmas antiques is that each collection reflected a different personality. There were Victorian pieces, German craftsmanship, Japanese displays, so many diverse pieces merging together into captivating representations of culture and craft.
Along with each display, there were biographies of the collectors themselves and you were able to learn a little bit more about who they were and how their collections developed. I cannot emphasize how engaging and well thought out this exhibit is presented. I don’t want to prattle on too much about the individual aspects because it is so much better if you take the time to go explore and find what intrigues you.
Paris to New York: Photographs by Bernice Abbott and Eugène Atget (October 6th – January 20th)
Located in the Fifth Third Gallery at the top of the stairs we found the Paris to New York exhibit, complete with a guided audio tour. You can easily download the podcast and let it walk you through the genius of two 1920s photographers. I learned so much about their craft, their motivations, and their process in developing their work. I was stunned by how some seemingly casual photographs came to life as a vibrant representation of two metropolitan cities that transformed so much over the decades that they’re hardly recognizable. We really didn’t have enough time to savor this exhibit as it deserves, and I really don’t want to give anything away if you intend on visiting. My hope would be that you make time to visit and take your time exploring the creative expression of these two photographers who lived a world apart and learn what connects them. Museum guests aren’t permitted to take pictures in this exhibit, so I don’t have any to share with you. I almost like that better because you can experience the pieces without distraction. To understand this intriguing exhibit you’ll just have to check it out on your own! If you’re not local to the Cincinnati area, it would be worth your time to visit the exhibit if it comes to your area. Practical note, I wish I’d brought ear buds to listen to the podcast!
Cincinnati has an abundance of fun and exciting places to visit and experiences to share. The more I explore, my appreciation and gratitude for the culture and history of the area grows. This museum is a unique representation of Cincinnati’s roots and a glimpse into the city it was years ago. I hope you find time to enjoy it for yourself!