by Bethany Proffitt
Did you know Tulsa is home to a gem of a museum in the heart of midtown? Did you further know this museum offers free admission to the public on the second Saturday of each month? And did you know the museum puts on multiple high-quality special activities for children and families on the second Saturday of each month? Read on for all of the juicy details and to plan your family’s outing to Philbrook Museum for Second Saturday.
The Philbrook Museum of Art is housed in Villa Philbrook, a 72-room, Italian-Renaissance-inspired mansion. It was constructed in 1927 as the country home of oilman Waite Phillips and his family. In 1938, the Phillipses donated the 23-acre estate to the people of Tulsa. The museum opened in 1939 with fewer than 100 objects; 75 years later, it has amassed more than 12,000 pieces of art. Collections include Italian Renaissance and Baroque paintings and sculptures, Asian artwork, Antiquities, a Native American gallery featuring art by native artists, and frequent new exhibits. In 2013, the Philbrook opened a second location in the Brady Arts District of downtown Tulsa. This gallery houses its growing modern and contemporary collections.
The Philbrook Museum of Art is located at 2727 South Rockford Rd, in the heart of a beautiful midtown neighborhood and with easy access from Peoria (East on 27th Pl) or Utica (West on 29th St).
Parking on Second Saturdays can be tricky as the museum is generally pretty full on these days. We often see cars parked along the neighborhood streets but we drive on into the parking lot anyway (there is a big circle drive for dropping off passengers) and we almost always find a spot in the main lot.
First Ten Minutes
The entrance opens up into the main lobby of the museum. All they ask for admission is your zip code and the number of people in your party. Straight ahead into the lobby there are usually several tables set up to serve visitors and families. One table is specifically for first time (to Second Saturday) guests. They will have you sign up for the program with your name and the names of your children and they will give each child a large, sturdy, art supply box. The idea is to bring the box every time but we find them bulky and opt to leave ours at home. After receiving your supply box, you proceed to the next table, where each child receives a special art supply related to the particular theme that the museum has adopted for the month. Our kids have received modeling clay, charcoal pencils, pencil sharpeners, etc. A third table is manned by knowledgeable people who can help you plan your visit and help you see the various activities. We have never had any trouble finding where to go because the museum staff are plentiful and very helpful and the museum is well marked with directional signs.
Each Second Saturday has a different theme, but there are certain activities that tend to be available each month. For example, there is always a scavenger hunt available, a story time at an appointed place and time, and one or two art projects. Pick up a schedule at one of the tables near the entrance and you will be in the know on everything that is going on.
We love to go straight downstairs to the art room, which always has an incredibly high quality and unique art project for children to take part in. These are make-and-take with all supplies and examples provided. Often there are two separate projects. Make sure you check the schedule of activities, so you don’t miss out! In warmer months, look for one or two activities out in the garden.
The museum staff will give you a printed scavenger hunt of the museum and grounds that you may choose to follow with your kids. This is a great way to encourage your kids to see some of the museum! One month, every child was given a heart and they were invited to vote for their favorite piece of art by placing the heart near their favorite piece. This helped the kids to pay more attention to the art on the walls and think about what they liked.
Typically, there is a story time for kids, but they only read at certain times, so pick up a schedule when you arrive and plan your visit accordingly.
We love to take our kids out to the gorgeous European-style garden in the back where they enjoy running up and down the criss-crossing paths, smelling the flowers and admiring the fish in the ponds. Often, in warmer months, art projects will be set up outside as well. There is plenty of green space too. After telling your kids to “be careful” and “don’t touch that” inside the museum, it’s nice to have a place for them to run around. Some people bring picnics to enjoy on the grounds, but there is a child-friendly lunch buffet offered as well.
Before You Leave
Our rowdy group can usually only handle a quick look at a few of the paintings and sculptures inside and if we (grown ups) really want to enjoy an exhibit (like Warhol), we try going back later without the kids. We always stop by the gift shop on the way out and try out some of the cool educational toys that are displayed for kids to play with.
With younger kids, we spend 2 hours at most at Philbrook on second Saturdays. However, there is so much to do at the museum that you could easily spend a whole day there.
Bethany Proffitt is the mother of four kids, two boys and two girls, and wife to Keith. They call south Tulsa home. Check out her other articles like spring break tips, back to school shopping tips, the best Tulsa-area pumpkin patches, the best area splash pads, shopping carts and life lessons, and her family’s journey through a layoff.