A venerable palace of classic works, the MFA upped its contemporary game last fall with #mfaNOW, a celebration of modern art that presented the unique opportunity for visitors to watch all 24 hours of Christian Marclay's real-time video collage The Clock at an overnight party. But the institution hasn't neglected its roots, kicking off the warmer months with a Henri Matisse exhibit that you can see for yourself until July 9. 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115, mfa.org.
Six years ago, Brandeis University feared the recession would shutter its art museum. Thankfully, a public outcry and powerful art collectors reversed that plan, and the school hired a new director, Christopher Bedford, to add to the museum's collections. The Rose has always excelled at midcentury abstract expressionism and pop art, and recently fleshed out its contemporary and African-American holdings. Today, it's among the most expansive university-run modern-art museums in the U.S. 415 South St., Waltham, MA 02453, brandeis.edu/rose.
Each week, director Liz Vance comes up with several new projects—from doll quilts to magnetic sculptures to homemade slime—and arranges supplies on tables in her studio. A helper or two is always around, but the tidy, colorful stations are so inviting, you'll likely find yourself up to your elbows in oobleck, too. 1776 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140, muckykids.com.
Last year, Harvard showed us that melding three museums—the Fogg, the Busch-Reisinger, and the Arthur M. Sackler—into a five-level palace of scholarly eye candy is doable indeed. After a six-year renovation, Harvard Art Museums opened in November, and the project handily lives up to its reported $350 million price tag. One needs only a layman's knowledge of art and history—enough to get psyched about Van Gogh's self-portrait, Warhol's electric-chair silkscreens, and portraits of George Washington—to spend an afternoon wandering the museum's halls in awe. 32 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA 02138, harvardartmuseums.org.
When musician and activist Toshi Reagon signed on to work out of Boston for the year, she and everyone else assumed that her masterpiece, a musical adaptation of Octavia Butler’s iconic sci-fi novel Parable of the Sower, would hit the stage in March to wild acclaim. That didn’t happen, of course, but lucky for us all, Reagon is still here, prepping for a rescheduled production this coming October and working on her related Parable Path Boston program, which aims to engage the community around the issues of climate change and social justice. parablepathboston.com.
Is it even an art class if they don’t come home with paint all over their arms and legs? This airy SoWa space is a haven for pint-size makers as young as 18 months. 71 Thayer St., Boston, MA 02118, minni.space.
Take your guests on a grand tour at the Harvard Art Museums, where European allure and venue options are in no short supply. Swap vows in the ivy-adorned courtyard of Adolphus Busch Hall, then head to the museum’s galleries to peruse paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts, including masterpieces from the Impressionist era, during cocktail hour. Afterward, you’ll make your official debut in Calderwood Courtyard, the museum’s Renzo Piano–designed atrium. Its glass roof suspends a massive mobile composed of oversize musical triangles—a harmonious backdrop for a dance floor. 32 Quincy St., Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, harvardartmuseums.org.
We love underdogs, but lately the MFA has reminded us why it’s the establishment. It has earned its bona fides with shows of trippy hippie fashion, action-packed samurai armor, John Singer Sargent watercolors, and a thematic exploration of the color pink. Its of-the-moment survey of photographs taken by women from Iran and the rest of the Arab world was proof that the august institution does new well, too. After eye-popping 19th-century quilts and a sampler of that sensitive Baroque scoundrel Caravaggio this spring, the Magna Carta, which paved the way for modern democracy, arrived on July 2. The underdogs might wanna get a move on. 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 2115, mfa.org.
The cache of fabulous handcrafted items, many of them one-of-a-kind, includes everything from fine jewelry to furniture—something for everyone. 36 Copley Place, Boston, MA .
All of Cake Art's babkas are sublime, but we love the chocolate—rich and crumbly—with chocolate through the center and drizzled like lace over the top. This is a babka Seinfeld's Elaine would fight to the death for. 374A South Main St., Sharon, MA .
With choices like green eggs and ham and root beer floats, the Art Cliff's menu is a bit like that of a child's tea party. The tastes at this '40s-era diner, however, are pure refinement. Former fine-dining chef Regina Stanley uses ingredients from nearby Morning Glory Farm for her creations; highlights include sweet potato biscuits with maple butter, and asparagus, tomato, and goat cheese frittatas. The pecan-stuffed pancakes alone have brunchies of all ages lining up on the vinyl counter stools seven days a week. 39 Beach Road, Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard, MA 2568, .
Boston's foremost art museum has it all: mummies and amphorae, French impressionists, and abstract expressionists. The jaw-dropping highlight, however, is the Arts of the Americas Wing, opened in fall 2010, which has taken many pieces formerly displayed in dark basement galleries and given them space to breathe in a brightly lit, glassed-in viewing area. The galleries themselves are nearly as inspiring as the art they feature. 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 2115, mfa.org.
Owner Peter Alpers of six-year-old Alpers Fine Art sells paintings on a variety of backdrops (canvas, wood, Plexiglas) by an impressive stable of established artists (Ellen Granter, C. J. Phu) and isn't afraid to take chances on new talent. He also curates diverse shows that include photography, sculpture, and original graphics and encourages visitors to brows—even if they never buy a thing. 2 Main St., Andover, MA 1810, .
It’s the compelling twists on familiar staples that keep the crowds coming to this Vineyard Haven diner on steroids: Biscuits are made with sweet potato, crêpes come loaded with Parmesan, prosciutto, and kale, and crunchy potato pancakes are piled high with Irish bacon and griddled eggs. 39 Beach Rd., Vineyard Haven, MA 2568, .
Brookline Arts Center remains one of the most forward-thinking schools around. Popular offerings include comic-book classes for grade schoolers, a jewelry course for teens, and anything taught by engaging studio coordinator Léonie Little-Lex. Before and during longer classes, kids can shake their sillies on the adjacent playground. 86 Monmouth St., Brookline, MA 02446, brooklineartscenter.com.