Art museums aren’t typically the best place to hang out with our furry friends, but that will all change this weekend when New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art welcomes a few special guests in celebration of the Lunar New Year: guide dogs.
To mark the start of the Year of the Dog, which kicked off February 16, “The Guide Dog Foundation, America’s Vet Dogs, and Guiding Eyes for the Blind will bring in working service dogs and puppies in training,” Rebecca McGinnis, the museum’s senior managing educator of accessibility, told artnet News. “They’ll help people understand the important work those dogs perform for people with various disabilities.”
This is not, however, your chance to bring your own pooch to the institution. In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, guide dogs are always welcome at the Met, but otherwise, you should leave your pets at home.
The Met’s Lunar New Year Festival, which will take place Saturday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m., was in part inspired by the museum’s 2015 programming marking the 25th anniversary of the ADA. “We held special tours for guide dogs and their owners of artworks featuring dogs at work and at play in the Met’s collection,” said McGinnis. “There are so many dogs represented across many cultures, so it’s a great a theme that takes us all the way around the museum through many centuries.”
As we enter the Year of the Dog, she added, the Met jumped at the chance to once again “highlight and showcase what dogs do for us… It was a great opportunity to honor the different ways dogs have been represented and immortalized in art.”
A special exhibition, “Celebrating the Year of the Dog,” on view January 19–July 4 aims to demonstrate the importance of dogs in daily Chinese life over the centuries. From being buried with their owners during the Shang dynasty (ca. 1500–1046 BC) to their many depictions in paintings, pottery, metalwork, and other media over the past two millennia, the dog has long had an important place in Chinese society—added proof that everybody loves man’s best friend.
The Lunar New Year programming will include a parade, musical performances, and a puppet show, as well as art-making activities, a hand-pulled noodle demonstration, and storytelling. Building on the canine theme, there will also be a “what your nose knows” scent tour of the museum. “You kind of follow your nose through the museum,” said McGinness.
It’s easy to see the wisdom in paying special attention to the holiday, widely celebrated in Asia, as the Met has seen an increase in visitors from China in recent years. In the 2017 fiscal year, 37 percent of visitorship was international. Chinese visitors made up 15 percent of that total, up two percent from the previous year. Online, the year-on-year increase was even greater, with 18 percent more sessions from China on the museum website during 2017.
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