- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Kreeger Museum on Foxhall Road in Northwest used to be the home of philanthropist and insurance magnate David Lloyd Kreeger. Unlike many other historic homes, however, the museum doesn’t highlight the personal belongings of its wealthy owners. Instead, it puts art front and center.

“The Kreegers started by collecting prints of famous artwork. Then they moved on to drawings and finally the real thing,” says Phyllis Leonard, a museum docent.

The Kreegers collected about 250 paintings and sculptures by such artistic luminaries as Edgar Degas, Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky.

“They bought the collection in a relatively short time — 1959 to 1974 — and for whatever reason, they didn’t buy any works by women artists,” Ms. Leonard says.

Many of these paintings are displayed in the museum.

David Kreeger liked modern art, while his wife, Carmen Kreeger, leaned toward the more traditional, Ms. Leonard says. This is reflected in the collection, which includes art from the 1850s to contemporary pieces. The house became a museum in 1994, a few years after Mr. Kreeger’s death. Mrs. Kreeger died in 2003 but did not use the house after 1994.

Does this sound like a fun place for a 3-year-old?

Well, says spokeswoman Anka Zaremba, the regular docent-led tours are geared toward visitors 12 and older, but the museum also offers plenty of activities, such as story time, for younger children several times a month. Story time includes a story, such as “Philippe in Monet’s Garden,” by Lisa Jobe Carmack, and a hands-on activity — for example, creating a garden by using tissue paper and pipe cleaners.

On Saturdays, the museum has “open hours,” meaning all ages are welcome and no reservations are needed.

“One of the things we like to do is give kids a pencil and sketchbook and let them make their own art,” Ms. Zaremba says. “Children also really enjoy the shapes of the building.”

The museum is housed in the Kreegers’ three-bedroom home, but this is no average single-family house. Its 24,000 square feet (14,000 square feet of which is used for gallery space and the rest for offices) has 25-foot ceilings, a 6-acre yard, several balconies and decks full of sculptures as well as a swimming pool, also surrounded by three-dimensional pieces.

The home was designed by architect Philip Johnson, who was given the challenge by the Kreegers to build a residence that could function as a home, a gallery space and a concert hall. The Great Hall, the concert venue, has high ceilings and several glass walls, one overlooking an atrium garden.

At the end of the Great Hall stands a grand piano on which the sheet music for Mozart’s “Scherzo-Duetto” is displayed. Aside from the music, the sheet features the signatures of some of the most prominent musicians of the 20th century, including Leonard Bernstein and Itzhak Perlman, who visited with the Kreegers.

“Kreeger was an amateur musician of some skill,” Ms. Leonard says, “and he loved to share his appreciation for music with others.”

The walls of the residence, which was completed in 1967, are made of travertine, a natural stone and the same material used to make Rome’s Colosseum.

“There’s a picture of when they dumped 9,000 tons of travertine on the front lawn. It’s quite a sight,” Ms. Leonard says.

The inside walls are covered by a terry-cloth-like material that allows for hanging art without making holes in the wall.

Some of the most famous pieces are Monet’s “Arm of the River Seine at Giverny” and Picasso’s “Man With a Golden Helmet.”

Ms. Zaremba says she hopes a visit to the Kreeger Museum and its story time and workshops will do more than just help introduce children to art.

“I hope they take away an excitement and appreciation of art, but also an empowerment — that they feel they can take anything, like a stick or pebble, and make magic.”

When you go:

Location: The Kreeger Museum is located at 2401 Foxhall Road NW in the District.

Directions: Visitors from Northern Virginia can take the Key Bridge to a left on M Street. Bear right onto Foxhall Road at the traffic light where the road forks. The museum will be on the right.

Visitors from Maryland can take the Beltway to the Connecticut Avenue exit. At the bottom of the ramp, turn left onto Connecticut Avenue. Continue for several miles. Turn right on Nebraska Avenue. Make a left on Foxhall Road. The museum will be on the left.

Hours: Docent-guided tours, for which reservations are needed, are given from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The museum also is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. No reservations are needed on Saturday.

Parking: Free.

Admission: $8 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, children 11 and younger admitted free.

Information: 202/337-3050 or www.kreegermuseum.org.

Notes: The Kreeger Museum’s weekday tours are geared to visitors 12 years old and older, but Saturdays are open to visitors of all ages. The museum also features frequent family-friendly programs.

Upcoming fall events:

Storytime at the Kreeger — 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Oct. 13 and 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 18. This event, for children ages 3 to 5, lets preschoolers explore works of art through stories. Also featured are hands-on activities. An adult must accompany the child at all times. Fee: $5 per child; an adult companion is admitted free. Reservations required. This event repeats several times in November and December.

Painting workshop — 9:30 a.m. to noon Oct. 29. This workshop, for children ages 8 to 12, is led by artists Anthony Brock and Sharon Fishel. It revolves around the portrayal of oceans in paintings by artists such as Claude Monet, Pierre Bonnard and Odilon Redon. Children can create their own artwork using acrylic paints on canvas. The workshop also will focus on color mixing and layered colors. Fee: $18 per child.

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