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Canoodling With Culture: The High Art of the Museum Date

Be a romantic and a GOOD citizen by taking your beau to see art or dinosaur bones -- and surprise him/her in the process!

The museum date. If you haven't done it, you should—what's more romantic than all those passionate Impressionists? It was Russian painter Marc Chagall who said "art must be an expression of love, or it is nothing." And almost every famous artist, from Michelangelo to Warhol, is a storied romantic.
You can't look at Renaissance portraiture forever, though, so try using every facet of modern museums to woo your love interest. Add these ideas to your repertoire and modify them for your city—then let us know what's good where you come from.
1. Find a unique collection. You can only look at so many Impressionist landscapes in a year. Surprise someone with a nontraditional museum—a place they might not ordinarily pick is great, but a place they might never find is even better.

How it's done:\n
If you're in Boston and want a laugh, try the Museum of Bad Art. Just read through a few exhibit descriptions—I'm already snickering. Laughter is a foundation of solid relationships, so look for a place to practice.

In central Japan, try the small-but-mighty Ninja Museum. Consider this more a cultural study than one-time visit: guests are heartily encouraged to study a glossary of terms before attending. Learn it together.

Get lost in this wacky architect's clutter-turned-collection in London. It's packed and a little overwhelming, but might have the perfect eerie/quaint balance to be a bit off-the-wall-romantic.

2. Stay out late. Most museums stay open after work at least once a week. Pros: No gaggles of schoolchildren, coincides with happy hour, could coincide with sunset. Cons: None.

How it's done:

Local: New York's Rubin Museum of Art has hosted two annual Dream-overs—nights on which adults can sleep in the shadows of their favorite paintings and wake up to dream analysis and Tibetan breakfast. Couples and singles tickets available.
National: In 2010, Italy instituted "Martedi in Arte," a national program encouraging museums to a) stay open late and b) offer free admission on the last Tuesday a month. The goal? To help Italians weather economic crisis without sacrificing high culture. See if your city has something similar (or push for a program!)

Continental: UNESCO and the Council of Europe have internationalized an old French program, the Night of Museums. This year it's on May 13, and museums in more than 40 countries will open their doors, again for free, from sunset until 1 a.m.

3. Choose a good restaurant. Why leave the museum to eat and drink? If the night's going well and you don't want to catch a bus, look at the museum's restaurant menu before you choose your site.

How it's done:\n
Traditional: The Hermitage Restaurant at its namesake museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, provides a ten-room tour of Russia's opulent Tsarist days. The food shouldn't disappoint, either: There's a caviar bar and a room dedicated to aperitifs.
Modern: In San Francisco? Spend a post-MOMA afternoon at the Blue Bottle Coffee Bar, where you can find cakes inspired by Mondrain and and ice cream by Craigg.

Ancient: The Museum-Atelier Canova Tadolini in Rome has taken over the former studio of a neoclassical sculptor—sculptures and all. Tables are tucked between marble bodies left by the artist and his students. Good luck getting any closer.

4. It's not all about art. It's pretty common for museums to do weekly film and music events, especially outdoors on warm summer nights. (You're feeling the mood already, aren't you?) If picnics are more your speed than are swanky restaurants, pack a bag and climb a cozy hillside, or put on your heels and dance the night away to some hip out-of-town DJ. Your call.

How it's done:\n
Only LA would name one of these after a freeway, but here we are: Saturdays off the 405 at the Getty Center. Come early for a cash bar and gallery visits (which are free year-round), and stay for hip local and international acts alike.

Film buff? The St. Louis Art Museum is one of many that offers a weekly film—in its case, a black-and-white classic—bookended by food trucks, indie bands and free admission until 11 p.m.

Take a dance lesson. Really. The Virginia MOCA offers both private and group lessons in salsa, ballroom and swing. Impress (or embarrass) one another after you're done exploring.

5. Make it a tradition. Ideally, a few months from now, your memories from that museum will make it one of your favorites. Give back by spreading the word or offering your time.

How it's done:\n
If you haven't done so yet, sign up for the newsletter! Find a cool event on an off-month anniversary, or at least help the museum out by taking a few customer experience surveys.
Become a volunteer. Most museums are nonprofits, remember, and they rely heavily on volunteers to create the events we recommend. Spend a few hours handing out programs or pointing folks in the right direction. You can usually score free admission, too.

Memberships make great gifts. Remember your out-of-this world series of dates with a year's worth of reduced admission and special events—and support the events that, by this point, you've come to love.

This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Become a Member of a Cultural Institution. Follow along and join the conversation at and on Twitter at #goodcitizen.


image (cc) wikimedia commons

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