by Julia Spiro

Those of us who live in college towns know that our neighboring beacons of academia can be both a blessing and a curse. While the booming base of music and the shrieks and cheers of a keg-stand applause at weekly (or daily) parties might not appeal to the locals, the school itself has more to offer. Amidst the football fields and the chem labs, many colleges and universities boast their own impressive collection of art housed in their surprisingly expansive art museums.

Check out our list of the top ten college art museums across the States to see if there is one near you. Admissions is open to the public and usually free, and with a wide range of visitors from around the world, there’s no need to squeeze into your old ripped jeans and attempt to blend in with the undergraduate crowd.

Bowdoin College Museum of Art

Tucked in the small and picturesque town of Brunswick, Maine, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art almost seems out of place with its 14 galleries and impressive collection of over 14,500 objects ranging from the ancient Mediterranean world to 21st century works. The museum’s 1894 building is based on Renaissance prototypes and the facade features a grand staircase, bronze 19th century statues, and two large lion sculptures taken from the Loggia dedi Lanzi in Florence. The building was modernized in 2007 with its renovation that created an entrance pavilion and a dramatic glass curtain wall. The collection includes paintings by Fra Angelico, Winslow Homer, Rockwell Kent, Sol LeWitt, John Sloan, John Singer Sargent, Pablo Picasso, as well as ancient and modern, international sculptures, decorative arts, and other works on paper. The museum is open free of charge to the public.

Bowdoin College Museum of Art Web site

9400 College Station,

Brunswick ME 04011-8494

Phone: 207-725-3275

Williams College Museum of Art

Known as one of the finest college art museums in the country, the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), set in an 1864 two-story brick octagon with a neoclassical rotunda structure, houses 12,000 works of art from various cultures and time periods. While their collections include Ancient and World Cultures, as well as European and Medieval, their most renowned collections are their American Collection and their Modern and Contemporary Collection, which include works by Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, Charles Prendergast, Andy Warhol, and Christina Fernandez. The museum also features a broad range of changing exhibitions, and past exhibitions included artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Kara Walker, and Tony Oursler.

Williams College Museum of Art Web site

15 Lawrence Hall Drive, Ste 2

Williamstown, MA 01267

Phone: 413.597.2429

RISD: Rhode Island School of Design Museum

It comes as no surprise that one of the best art schools in the country also has one of the most extensive museums. With 45 galleries on three floors, this museum boats over 80,000 works of art including ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, French Impressionist paintings, Chinese stone and terracotta sculpture, and everything in between. Featured 19th century French artists include Manet, Monet, Delacroix, Cezanne, Rodin, and Matisse, while 19th and 20th century American artists include Chase, Heade, Homer, Bellows, Sargent, and Cassatt. In addition to its own collection, the museum also features special exhibitions, lectures, tours, concerts, and other art related programs.

RISD: Rhode Island School of Design Museum Web site

224 Benefit Street

Providence, RI 02903

Phone: 401 454-6500

The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State University
This expansive museum includes eleven galleries, a print-study room, a 150-seat auditorium, and outdoor sculpture garden. Eight of the galleries display selected works from the museums permanent collection of 5,000 art objects. The museum boasts an extensive collection of American art, including early portraiture, works from the Gilded Age, and modernism, as well as printmaking, photography and contemporary pieces. Also included in the collection are European works dating back to the 16th century, Japanese woodblock prints, Asian jade pieces, and African sculptures. Another highlight includes the museum’s unique Pennsylvania Print Collection, which features 330 prints depicting Pennsylvania’s towns, portraits, and historical scenes.

The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State University Web site

Curtin Road

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-2507

Phone: 814-865-7672

The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University

The core of this metropolitan museum is their collection of prints and photographs, which reflect the museum’s mission to enhance the study and exhibition of reproducible art forms. Similarly, the museum also showcases a strong element of contemporary art forms such as video, computer-mediated art, and film. While many of the museum’s prints are by Old Masters like Rembrant, others are by modern atists like Max Beckmann, Japser Johns, and KiKi Smith. Their collection of photographs are primarily twentieth-century and include works by independent photographers as well as photojournalists. There is also an outdoor sculpture garden featuring works by Jean Arp, Barbara Hepworth, Joan Miro, and Henry Moore, among others.

The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University Web site

40 Arts Circle Drive

Evanston, IL 60208-2410

Phone: 847-491-4100

Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Museum

This University museum, in a classic, red brick building with a towering steeple, features six exhibitions each year that cover a diverse range of both Eastern and Western art. The permanent collections vary in time as much as type, including works by artists such as Mary Cassatt, James McNeill Whistler, Grant Wood, Man Ray, Roy Lichtenstein, and European masters like Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso, Albrecht Durer, and Salvador Dali. The museum is also home to an array of ceramic and terra cotta wares from ancient Egypt, Etruria, and Greece.

Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Museum Web site

23rd and West End Avenues

Nashville, Tennessee 37203

Phone: 615-322-0605

The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College

With over 6,000 works in their permanent collection, the museum at Rollins College is one of Florida’s largest, and oldest, museums. Highlights from the collection include a Madonna and Child Enthroned by Cosimo Rosselli from c. 1480, and Italian Renaissance masterpieces by Lavinia Fontana, Alessandro Turchi, Pietro Liberi, and Francesco de Mura. More modern artists include Henry Moore, Alberto Pasini, and sculptor Hiram Powers. The museum’s exhibitions are also highlights, including shows such as the current “Corps Exquis, The Human Form: 1565-2005,” which includes drawings by Pablo Picasso, KiKi Smith and Paul Cezanne.

>Rollins College, The Cornell Fine Arts Museum Web site

1000 Holt Avenue

Winter Park, Florida 32789-4499

Phone: 407-646-2526

The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas

The seven galleries at this Mid Western museum feature selected works from the permanent collection of over 25,000 pieces of art. One of the museum’s primary purposes is to serve as a teaching tool for the University, so their collection is comprehensive and spans the history of European and American paintings, sculptures, and prints, as well as Japanese Edo-period works, 20th century Chinese works, and a collection of photography. Works in the collection are by artists including Dale Chihuly, Ellsworth Kelly, Winslow Homer, Claude Monet, Faith Ringgold, and Roger Shimomura, among others. Objects from the expansive collection that are not on display are available for viewing by appointment.

The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas Web site

1301 Mississippi Street

Lawrence, KS 66045-7500

Phone: 785.864.4710

The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin

As the largest university art museum in the country and the third largest museum in Texas, the Blanton Museum owns over 17,000 works of art, with highlights in European Old Master paintings, modern and contemporary American and Latin American art, and an encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings. European Paintings include works by Rubens and Sebastiano del Piombo, while American and Contemporary artists include Joan Mitchell, Mark Rothko, Albert Bierstadt, and Henry Farny. The museum’s highly anticipated exhibitions offer a wide array of mediums, eras, and artists.

The Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin Web site

The University of Texas at Austin

MLK at Congress
(200 East MLK)

Austin, Texas 78701

Phone: 512-471-7324

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

In a distinctive modern building from the late 1960s, Berkeley’s art museum is one of the largest University museums in the country. What makes this museum so unique is its collection of multimedia art, with 14,000 art objects as well as 10,000 films and videos. Visitors can see works by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollack, Albert Bierstadft, Paul Gaguin, and Joan Brown, among others. The museum also houses a strong collection of historical and contemporary Asian art. The film archive, which strives to increase understanding, appreciation, and preservation of cinema through its study, boats the largest group of Japanese films outside of Japan, in addition to Soviet silent films, international classics, and more.

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Web site

2625 Durant Avenue #2250

Berkeley, CA 94720-2250

Phone: 510-642-0808