Art & Nature Center

Boy and Arctic Wolf

Art & Nature Center

Completely redesigned, the expanded Art & Nature Center showcases original exhibitions that investigate our interconnections with nature through contemporary art, memorable objects and interactive experiences. Designed for visitors of all ages, the new family-friendly center features changing exhibitions, hands-on displays and art-making spaces.

Changing Art & Nature Exhibitions

These revolving shows explore timely topics at the interface of human experience and the natural world.

Our exhibition, Branching Out: Trees as Art, opened September 27th. Come explore art inspired by and made with trees!

Check out all of our Past Art & Nature Center Exhibitions below.

Art & Nature Displays

Discover art and natural specimens from the museum's collection that reveal stories about our evolving relationship with nature. Interactive sculptures and exploratory stations also invite you to play and invent as you investigate your own connections with the environment. The Investigate! Zone, with its fun things to do and create on low tables, shows toddlers and preschoolers there's a place here for them, too!

Art-making Spaces

Exercise your creativity at PEM! Visit the Art Nook and Create Space for a wide range of drop-in programs and art-making workshops. (See the Events Calendar for details.)

Check out the latest blog posts about the center by Meg Winikates, Art & Nature Center Programs Coordinator at Connected.

Past Art & Nature Center Exhibitions

Beyond Human: Artist–Animal Collaborations
Beyond Human: Artist–Animal Collaborations
October 19, 2013 to September 7, 2014
Ripple Effect, The Art of H2O
Ripple Effect, The Art of H2O
June 18, 2011 to July 8, 2012
Eye Spy, Playing with Perception
Eye Spy, Playing with Perception
June 19, 2010 to May 22, 2011
Trash Menagerie
Trash Menagerie
June 20, 2009 to May 23, 2010
Polar Attractions
Polar Attractions
June 28, 2008 to June 7, 2009
Origami Now!
Origami Now!
June 16, 2007 to June 8, 2008
A Sense of Place, An Artist's Tribute to the Seven Continents
A Sense of Place, An Artist's Tribute to the Seven Continents
December 16, 2006 to June 3, 2007
Owls in Art and Nature
Owls in Art and Nature
October 1, 2005 to December 3, 2006
In Nature's Company
In Nature's Company
October 9, 2004 to September 18, 2005

Related events For families

Ropes Mansion Reopens
Saturday, May 23, 2015 from 12pm - 4pm

Ropes Mansion will be open free to the public seasonally, Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 4 pm.

Explore the Ropes Mansion with self-guided tours for the first time since the stately Georgian Colonial closed to the public in 2009 following an accidental fire. Instead of traditional timed tours, guests can freely circulate throughout 15 rooms of the home, exploring the property at their own pace. Guides will be on hand to engage conversation and answer questions, while hands-on interactive experiences encourage guests to explore the house's stories layer by layer. Read about the process of restoring and reimagining the historic house on PEM's blog

Just a 10-minute walk from the museum, the house was built around 1727 and was home to four generations of the Ropes family. It is recognized as one of New England's most significant and thoroughly documented historic houses and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Filled with original furnishings, the Ropes Mansion contains superb examples of 18th- and 19th-century furniture, ceramics and glass, silver, kitchenwares, textiles and personal objects.

On the first floor, the dining room is set as it would have appeared for Christmas dinner in 1847, details gleaned from a letter by Sally Fisk Ropes Orne who hosted the event. The nearby kitchen offers a glimpse into the lives of the parlor maid and cook employed by the Ropes family in 1894 and the housekeeping practices used in their daily tasks. Guests are invited to try their hand at historic napkin-folding techniques and learn period table manners and etiquette. Upstairs bedrooms present tales of marriage, housekeeping and child rearing.

Period rooms within the Ropes Mansion welcome guests to explore the intimate surroundings with as few barriers as possible. Open drawers, trunks and desks are designed to pique curiosity and offer a naturalistic glimpse into the lives of Ropes family members. Reproduction bed hangings, carpet and wallpaper introduce vibrant color and texture to the home and, for the first time, the 1894-period bathroom will be on view.  

Also this summer, PEM offers a three-part series of programs at Ropes Mansion on Saturdays in July (11, 18 and 25), including a behind-the-scenes architecture tour, an exploration of the interests and pastimes enjoyed by family members who lived in the Ropes Mansion, and life in the 18th century kitchen. Related design activities will be held in the Ropes garden, weather permitting. Check the calendar and Connections members' magazine for more information.


The First Drawing
Sunday, May 24, 2015 from 2pm - 3pm STORY TRAILS

Who created the first drawings on cave walls? What do they tell us about the way people lived long ago? Find out as we read The First Drawing by Mordicai Gerstein, then learn some charcoal drawing techniques to help Emily Larsen, a PEM graphic designer, and Kristin Porcello, an education intern and illustration major at Montserrat College of Art, transform our Create Space into an art cave.

American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood
Saturday, June 6, 2015 from 10am - 5pm Opening Day

Thomas Hart Benton painted stories about American people and mined Hollywood for his signature style. Through music, film and conversations with the curators, discover how Benton played a leading role in 20th-century American art.



10 am-5 pm | Special Exhibition Galleries | Level 3



The Root Farmers
Noon-1:30 pm | Atrium

Enjoy traditional fiddle styles including Appalachian old-time, blues, bluegrass, Cajun, Irish and swing.



In Conversation with Curators of Art and Film  
2-3 pm | Morse Auditorium
Reservations by June 4

Join Austen Barron Bailly, The George Putnam Curator of American Art and exhibition lead curator, and film expert Matthew Bernstein as they explore the deep connection between Benton's art and Hollywood, as well as Bernstein's role as film curator for the exhibition. Bailly and Bernstein segue to an in-depth discussion of The Grapes of Wrath.



The Grapes of Wrath
3:30-6 pm | Morse Auditorium
Reservations by June 4

The Grapes of Wrath is director John Ford's classic adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel illustrated by Thomas Hart Benton. This film, starring Henry Fonda, captures the impact of the Great Depression on one representative family - the Joads. 1940, 129 minutes. Introduction by film expert Matthew Bernstein.


Made possible by The Lowell Institute

Free Fun Friday at PEM
Friday, June 26, 2015 from 10am - 5pm

The Peabody Essex Museum is proud to participate in the annual Free Fun Fridays program sponsored by the Highland Street Foundation. On Friday, June 26, 2015, PEM will open its doors with free general admission to visitors all day long. Please note that tickets to Yin Yu Tang: A Chinese House are not included.

Free Fun Fridays is a program that includes 66 museums and cultural venues across Massachusetts. Each Friday this summer, there will be between five and eight venues open for free. The program begins Friday, June 26, and runs through Friday, August 28. For the full program schedule and to learn more about Free Fun Fridays, please visit: