Like any big multicultural city, when it comes to museums, L.A. has no shortage. But while the city’s bigger, more popular museums such as LACMA, MOCA, The Getty, and the Natural History Museum tend to get all of the glory, there are several smaller, lesser known, and/or quirky museums around town that are definitely worth a visit. Here’s my roundup of five offbeat L.A. museums that I’ve either been to or that are still on my list, that are well worth exploring.
Craft and Folk Art Museum
Why Visit: As its name suggests, this museum attracts creative types from all walks in celebration of contemporary and traditional craft and folk art. In the mid-1960s, the museum started off as an art gallery and restaurant and it evolved into a non-profit museum in 1973. The Craft & Folk Art Museum displays exhibits by new and established artists whose work is centered on craft and design. What’s especially cool about this museum are its offerings of workshops, art talks, and readings that are open to the public including an upcoming Meet & Make Craft Night at the museum in celebration of Valentine’s Day. During the event, participants will make knick knacks for their significant others using the Rainbow Loom.Cost: Free (members, kids under 10, and monthly on 1st Wednesdays) $7 (general) $5 (students, seniors, and veterans) Contact: 5814 Wilshire Blvd. (Miracle Mile) Ph: 323.937.4230 www.cafam.org
Why Visit: Music is one of the few things powerful enough to bridge cultural gaps and to unite people of different backgrounds, and for that reason alone, the GRAMMY Museum is one that any music lover can appreciate. The museum, which opened in 2008 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the GRAMMY Awards, features four floors of exhibits that explore a wide variety of musical genres over the years in a socio-political context. It even features a 200 seat Clive Davis Theater where visitors can watch videos featuring behind-the-scenes looks at the GRAMMY Awards. During our visit, we saw a clip of Beyonce and Tina Turner preparing for their GRAMMY performance at the 2008 show.
But all of the interactive exhibits are the absolute best part of the GRAMMY Museum. With touch screens, earphones, recording technology, and instruments, the museum is all about hands-on learning.
Also, visitors should check out the Michael Jackson exhibit displaying the King of Pop’s famous costumes from past awards shows and from some of his music videos. “Whitney! Celebrating the Musical Legacy of Whitney Houston” is another must see exhibit that opened in 2012 about six months after her death. The Whitney Houston exhibit features some of the late singer’s rare photos, stage costumes, albums and scrapbooks, and much more.Cost: $12.95 (adults) $11.95 (18+ with valid college ID and seniors 65+) $10.95 (youth 6-17 years and military with valid ID) Contact: 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Ste. A245 (at L.A. Live) Ph: 213.765.6800 www.grammymuseum.org
Heritage Square Museum
Why Visit: A visit to the Heritage Square Museum is like taking a step back into history to explore the settlement and development of Southern California during the first 100 years of statehood. The museum is a living history museum that’s home to eight structures that were built during the Victorian Era. A highlight of any visit to the Heritage Square Museum is the opportunity to walk through some of the homes and other structures in the square to get a glimpse into what Southern Californians lived like years ago. The museum also hosts several annual events including the Vintage Fashion Show and Tea, Silent and Classic Music Nights, Halloween and Mourning Tours which explore the death and mourning rituals of the Victorian Era, and much more. A car show prompted our visit to the museum, and afterward, we toured some of the homes on the premises.Cost: Free (members and kids under 6) $10 (adults 13+) $8 (seniors 65+) $5 (kids 6-12) Contact: 3800 Homer St. Ph: 323.225.2700 www.heritagesquare.org
The Museum of Jurassic Technology
Why Visit: The Museum of Jurassic Technology is a resource for academics that houses a collection of artifacts from the Lower Jurassic, especially those that possess unique technological aspects. The museum also provides the general public with hands-on insight into life in the Jurassic. In addition to permanent collection exhibits focusing on natural history and the history of science, the Museum of Jurassic Technology also features several other exhibitions including “Garden of Eden on Wheels: Collections from Los Angeles Area Mobile Home Parks” and “Micromosaics of Harald Henry Dalton.”Suggested Cost: Free (kids 12 and under) $8 (adults) $5 (ages 13 – 21, 60+, full time students, unemployed) $1.50 (disabled persons & active military personnel in uniform) Contact: 9341 Venice Blvd., Culver City Ph: 310.836.6131 www.mjt.org
The Museum of African American Art
Why Visit: Located in a Macy’s department store, you can combine your love of shopping with your love of art at The Museum of African American Art. The museum was founded in 1976 by Dr. Samella Lewis, an artist and art historian, to increase the public’s awareness of and support for African American art and art representative of the African Diaspora including the South Pacific, the Caribbean, and South America. The Palmer Hayden Collection is a part of the museum’s permanent collection that features 40 pieces by the artist including three of his most important paintings: “Fetiche et Flerus” (1933), “Midsummer Night in Harlem” (1936) and “Baptizing Day” (1946).Cost: Free Contact: 4005 Crenshaw Blvd. (Macy’s 3rd Floor in Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza) Ph: 323.294.7071 www.maaala.org
What’s your favorite offbeat museum in your city?