Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) is a treasure for art and exploration in downtown Berkeley just west of campus.
I visited the Berkeley art museum in its new architecturally designed building with my three kids. We’d been watching the progress of the building as it took shape from an Art Deco printing plant to its current stainless steel clad design and were keen to check it out.
The kids were pretty impressed right from the get go as we approached the giant screen on the side of the building. A giant outdoor screen? Now that it is pretty cool – even if what happens to be on it when I took a photo isn’t quite as cool!
Kids will get a kick out of many of the incredible architectural aspects of the building. The saw tooth roof of the original printing plant is filled with giant windows that let in huge amounts of light. They also look pretty amazing when you look up. Actually, from pretty much any point in the museum you are treated to an interesting view when you look up. The wooden seating/stairs that lead from the ground level to the lower level just inside the main entrance was a big hit with my kids. They climbed up and down the seating/stairs over and over and over. As did every other kid we saw in the museum! This particular area has lots of large, colorful cushions to sit on – or make into a comfy bed like my kids did! Perfect for when you need a little rest. My kids also loved the bright red staircases which are a stark contrast to the white walls throughout the museum.
The artworks on display in the museum are mostly modern, and while many of them won’t be appreciated by children as much as their parents, there were still quite a few that my kids enjoyed seeing. A small tin house with images projected onto a wall inside caught my kids’ attention. They had a lot of fun standing between the projector and the screen and seeing their shadows over the film. There were a lot of bunny ears! My kids also enjoyed seeing Ruth Asawa’s wire structures that they recognized from the De Young and which cast interesting shadows on the wall and floor. Al Taylor’s scrapwood sculptures also cast interesting shadows onto the wall and my kids liked trying to make out different structures in the shadows. My 5 year old was especially taken by a display featuring intricate spider web structures lit up in a darkened room. She has been learning about spiders at school and is our resident spider expert!
The highlight for my kids was definitely the hands on Art Lab Here they were able to make their own masterpieces with the multitude of supplies available. The projects in the Art Lab vary, but during our visit the focus was on paper art, specifically mail art, with envelope templates and blank postcards available for visitors to get creative with. The museum has an art swap program in place in which visitors can leave their artworks behind to be sent to another visitor who has left their details on the mailing list. We signed up to have another visitor’s art sent to us but the kids weren’t keen to leave theirs behind. Good thing I also made a collage to leave behind!
On the top level of the museum (up more of those amazing red staircases!) visitors will find Babette, a little cafe with a range of delicious pastries, lunch dishes, coffee and sodas. Sneak peeks of the cafe can be seen from the lower floors as in the photo below. From the cafe visitors have a pretty expansive view over the museum as well as over Center Street.
Plan your visit to BAMPFA
BAMPFA is open Wednesday to Sunday 11am – 7pm
The Art Lab is held
Friday, 2 – 7pm
Saturday, 11am – 7pm
Sunday, 11am – 7pm
FREE to all children under 13 AND accompanying adults!
- Free BAMPFA members; UC Berkeley students, faculty & staff; 18 & under + one adult per child 13 and under
- $12 Non-UC Berkeley students; disabled; 65+
- $14 General admission
- Free First Thursdays: Galleries free for all on the first Thursday of each month
- Please note that there are additional fees for the theater.
2155 Center Street in Berkeley, one block from downtown Berkeley BART
For more information visit the BAMPFA website.