A Master Class in How to Be Inclusive…
You don’t realize how NOT inclusive much of the world is until you step into a space that actually welcomes you. Suddenly, relaxation flows. You feel comfortable, exactly as you are — no matter who you are.
Can We Define “Inclusiveness?”
Before we talk about this magical space (a certain museum near Pittsburgh), let’s break down the background. What does it mean to be “inclusive” in the context of a space or institution?
“Inclusive” synonyms include: welcoming, inviting and open, whole and comprehensive, embracing people from all backgrounds, or full and complete… but I’d suggest that another synonym could be: “The Westmoreland Museum of American Art!”
How is the Westmoreland Museum of American Art Inclusive?
The Westmoreland is an American art collection in Greensburg, Pennsylvania just 35 minutes from Pittsburgh, PA, and though I’ve been to many museums around the world — from the Chihuly, Seattle masterpiece of an exhibit in Washington state, to Ireland castle museums — none has made me feel as truly welcome as WMAA.
A FREE Museum that Invites You In
The Westmoreland Museum of American Art literally has inclusiveness written on the walls (and chairs!), inviting you at every turn to sit, connect, reflect, and be yourself. And did I mention that the whole place is FREE, too?
Naturally, the Westmoreland also a rockin’ collection of art. Let’s take a walk through the halls, starting with a giant, 7-foot-wide Tiffany stained glass…
Inclusiveness in the Art’s Races and Ages…
Gaze below at this beautiful small painting by the early 1900s artist, Harry Roseland: “A Stitch in Time.” It depicts a tender moment between a grandfather and young girl, as the elderly man teaches his granddaughter how to sew — thus bonding them over time, despite their difference in ages.
It is always refreshing to see museums that offer an inclusive range of races and life stages in the art displayed!
Quilts: Awesome American Art
As an American art museum, The Westmoreland honors the diversity of our country’s craft styles — not just paintings and sculptures. Hanging on the wall of a room full of drawers you can pull out is the riotously fabulous quilt, pictured below: “Quilt (Crazy Pattern)” by the Boquet Lutheran Church Ladies Aid Society in 1888, made from silk and velvet.
I deeply appreciate that WMAA curators elevate “everyday women’s work” like quilting to be respected along with fancy “fine arts.” As was emphasized by the phenomenal Quilts and Color exhibit I caught in Boston years ago, quilting is an exceptional art form, and the skills of the women who created them must be honored.
A Giant Window to Look at Greensburg, PA
This next section is a bit of a tease because what I’m about to talk about was closed when I visited, so I couldn’t photograph it, BUT I can confirm that The Westmoreland has an epic room which looks out over the city with a wide glass wall.
Until you can see that window yourself, here’s the dramatic 1914 bronze sculpture, “Descending Night” by Adolf Alexander Weinman to admire.
Inclusiveness in Furniture and Signs
Ever been in a museum and felt like you’d be yelled at if you did the wrong thing, but didn’t really know what that wrong thing might be? Welcoming and instructive signs like those on display at WMAA truly help calm these worries.
Below, observe a chair which declares: “Move me to your favorite spot, then sit and stare for a while.” Such inviting words make a visitor see more of the allowed opportunities in a new place, and decrease fear of “messing up” or “doing the museum wrong.” Thanks, WMAA!
Juxtapositions of Difference to Show Similarities
The way the art is displayed in the Westmoreland Museum of American Art is profoundly clever. Pieces that are contrasting are sometimes paired together, thus revealing their connecting similarities.
Below, a painting of a woman (“Studio Window,” 1928 by Guy Pene DuBois) is juxtaposed in the same line of sight with an imposing bronze statue of a solider (“Study for Courage Militaire” by Paul Wayland Bartlett, 1865-1925). Seeing these two very different people and media types together, the soldier-like strength of the woman is revealed through the similarity of her profile to the nearby warrior. Genius curation!
From Classic to Modern Art
The American art on display at WMAA spans centuries and styles. On one hand, there is the traditional, almost Greco-Roman sculpture pictured above. On the other hand, there is the large, modern, loud and proud confetti party painting below: “Untitled,” 1951, by John Grillo. So fun!
Phrasing Warnings in a Positive Way
I once observed a fellow Boston teacher’s classroom, and was struck by how positive the vibe of the teacher-student relationships were. Upon reflection, I realized that it was because this teacher never said anything negative — even when she was giving a warning. Everything was phrased in terms of things students COULD do.
The Westmoreland takes a similar tactic, and it brought a smile to my face. Just read the sign below… “DO fall in love. Do NOT promise never to come back.” Ha!
Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania Pride
There is an entire gallery room at WMAA that celebrates local Pittsburgh and Laurel Highlands art. The paintings on display change seasonally, and my favorite one of the bunch (the one with the clouds in the middle: “Summer”) had just been hung that week!
Chihuly Chandelier, Lobby, and French Cafe
Don’t discount the entrance lobby at The Westmoreland. It features a glass Chihuly chandelier, nice tables and work spaces, and the French cafe, Cafe Marchand, which is run by the famed chefs behind French Express. Yes, the quiche there is delectable, and highly recommended.
New Exhibits and an Outdoor Patio
While the core exhibits at The Westmoreland stay steady, do check their Current Exhibits page to assess the latest awesomeness. When we visited, the exhibit was “Era of Cool,” boasting brightly colored music art!
Note the welcoming patio space outside the museum: a great place to eat a picnic, do work, or rest after touring the museum with kids.
Lots for KIDS to do at The Westmoreland
Though I’ve seen some great hands-on kids’ wings of museums (MASS MoCA and the Eric Carle Museum to name a few), the WMAA has one of the most interesting and — I dare say — PROFOUND children’s sections around: the Center for Creative Connections.
Hands-On Crafts and Challenges for ALL Ages
As a middle school teacher and the mother of two young kids, I can be picky about kids’ activity centers, but I found the WMAA hands-on activities uniquely deep and intellectual — while still being engaging and accessible for all ages. Let’s look at a few examples.
(I keep emphasizing the “all ages piece because I was tempted to do each and every station, myself, AND the wall signs invited adults to do just that! See? Inclusive.)
Children Building Bridges
Above, on the white table on the left, is an activity which guides kids (or interested adults) to build bridges — an art prompt which reflects the local fact that Pittsburgh possesses some of the largest number of bridges of any city! I love how WMAA reflects local pride, connection, and knowledge.
Places to Relax, and Spaces to Explore
Meanwhile, above is a simulated “lawn” with chairs that invite you to sit back and veg out with a book or ten while gazing at the city below. Perhaps a nice place for parents or guardians to hang out while kids frolic? Below is a topography challenge for children that draws upon the hilly nature of Pittsburgh.
Art Classes, Kids Camps, and Community Days
Dive into the official family page of the Westmoreland’s Kids’ Center for the myriad of opportunities beyond independent explorations of the space: from hands-on, teacher-led classes to camp, to days open to the whole family. What an excellent resource this space is for the community of Greensburg and its environs!
Greensburg, PA is a Cool Little Town
Speaking of its environs, what is the town WMAA is in like, anyway? In short — I loved it. Like the museum, Greensburg has a welcoming, artsy vibe to it… plus the Westmoreland County Courthouse dome is epic-looking!
Eat and Drink at White Rabbit Cafe
On the recommendation of my Pittsburgh expert friend, Jeremy, I stopped for a bite at the hip White Rabbit cafe in Greensburg, a very short walk across a bridge from WMAA. Now, I’m both a chocolate chip cookie and coffee snob, and I can certify that both were off the charts at this eatery. Just look at that chocolate ratio in the photo below!
The Greensburg Love Locks Bridge
As perhaps should be expected, even the bridge outside The Westmoreland Museum of American Art is… art. It’s covered in words that form poetry, and along the fence above the railroad tracks are love locks. Cool place!
Other Things to Do in the Laurel Highlands:
Enjoyed the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, and seeking other nearby attractions? Here are a few alluring ideas:
- See the Mister Rogers trolley and puppets in real life!
- Go to the famed Fallingwater house
- Tour the art museum in Ligonier, PA
- Laugh at the signs in this farm stand nearby
- Stay in romantic luxury cabins by Fallingwater
Thanks, Inclusive Westmoreland!
We had a wonderful time in the Westmoreland Museum of American Art — and in the whole Laurel Highlands and Pittsburgh region, for that matter — and send a sincere THANK YOU to everyone who works so hard to make it a welcoming, wonderful place. May others learn from your inclusive example!
Have You Visited Greensburg?
So what about YOU? Have you been to WMAA or Greensburg, PA? If so, what were your impressions, and what would you add? If not, does it seem like a place you’d like to see? Do share!
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