The Scoop: Dating has changed significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, but one thing remains the same: People still want to spend time engaged in fun, interesting conversation. The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) offers an excellent way for daters to get to know one another in a vibrant yet socially distanced setting. The museum is full of cultural wonders to explore and discuss. That means daters can get an idea of what a potential partner thinks about the creative expressions of some of the world’s most famous artists.

Dating during the era of social distancing looks a lot different than it has in the past. Couples no longer head out to the crowded bars to grab a casual drink. There’s not much cuddling and sharing popcorn at the movies (as most theaters are temporarily closed), and it may be difficult to find a café that lets patrons sit down at a table and chat over coffee.

When the weather is lovely, daters can take a stroll in the park, but the conversation may lag, especially early on in a relationship. Without things to discuss, it can be hard to tell if the other person shares the same interests and values. That’s why many couples head to the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) for inspiration and socially distanced indoor — or outdoor — conversation.

The NCMA logo

Visiting the North Carolina Museum of Art can be a thoughtful date for couples.

Daters won’t have to worry about a lack of topics to discuss as they wander through the museum viewing some of its culturally significant yet accessible masterpieces. That accessibility is why it’s called “The People’s Collection of North Carolina,” said Janis Treiber, Director of Member and Visitor Services.

“We work to provide a sense of community for all of our visitors, holding true to our mission statement: ‘We explore and inspire the creative potential in all,’” she said.

Daters can discover art that spans more than 5,000 years in the museum’s general collection, which charges no admission. Artists include Yayoi Kusama, Claude Monet, Auguste Rodin, and Kehinde Wiley.

Its galleries also highlight ancient, African, and Judaic collections, and the museum is surrounded by a beautiful 164-acre park, perfect for reflection.

Welcoming Visitors of All Ages

Janis said that the museum gets visitors of all ages and diverse backgrounds, and everyone is comfortable as they tour the exhibits. Along with couples on dates, the museum welcomes families, seniors, and students from around the world.

The museum’s goal is to create a unique experience for every visitor, but it’s especially popular with daters and couples. Janis said the museum is also frequently the backdrop for weddings and engagement proposals.

The core museum has a collection that’s free to visit. Couples can tour two buildings and the outdoor area, including trails, meadows, and wide-open spaces perfect for picnics and romantic walks. If visitors get hungry, they can grab a snack or a drink from ACR at the Park, helmed by Raleigh Chef Ashley Christensen.

Photo of NCMA gallery

Galleries at the NCMA cater to those with different tastes and artistic styles.

Those interested in special events to share with a partner can log on to the museum’s website to find a list of activities that take place throughout the year.

“We host virtual lectures, family storytimes, concerts, art appreciation, meditation, yoga, movie viewings, discussions, and more,” Janis said.

The events are organized by a dedicated team of 170 full-time employees who have an eclectic mix of skills and backgrounds. They include curators, security, marketing personnel, conservators, art handlers, and exhibit designers. And everyone wants to share art with their community, Janis said.

“We want the NCMA to be the site of many happy memories for our visitors, increasing their sense of well-being, inspiring, challenging, and stimulating them,” she said. “We want our impact to go beyond the museum walls and extend into their everyday lives.”

Limited-Time Events Add Excitement

The team behind NCMA is planning special ticketed exhibitions of limited-time art and cultural events visitors should add to the calendar in 2021. For example, in March, the museum will unveil an exhibit called the Golden Mummies of Egypt.

“We’ll continue to host ground-breaking exhibitions, including our annual festival of flowers event ‘Art in Bloom,’ and memorable events like our summer concert series, and, of course, welcome visitors to the ‘People’s Collection,’” Janis said.

Visitors can enjoy performing arts displays throughout the year, including music, theater, and dance. The museum also features film festivals and community groups across the state that introduce new ideas and creativity.

“People need a place like the NCMA to feel welcome, to come to relax, learn, and explore,” Janis said. “All are welcome at the museum, and we always look forward to creating memorable experiences curated to fit our diverse community.”

Museum visitor Deborah Brogden said she loved the fact that she could safely visit the NCMA with her friends and family during a year that was so trying.

“NCMA provides a sanctuary, both with indoor space and lots of great outdoor spots to sit, to walk, to meet up with friends,” she said in an online testimonial. “What a place to socially distance, lots of beauty, and thought stimulus. I leave from an NCMA visit with a lighter spirit and with a sense that I am part of a family that does great things. Each visit there is a good one.”

NCMA: Couples Can Return for Cultured Dates

Many people who visit the NCMA don’t just go once. Masterpieces from its collection have even woven their way into the lives of couples who live nearby.

Emily “Lou” Owoc said that she and her partner went to the NCMA for the first time about a year ago. She made sure to take him to see Monet’s famous “The Cliff, Étretat, Sunset,” and they repeatedly returned for a safe public outing after months of sheltering at home.

“Monet is one of my very favorite artists, and this has become one of my favorite paintings,” she said in an online testimonial. “For Christmas last year, he gave me a large canvas print of the very same painting so I can enjoy it every day. I love the museum and have enjoyed the virtual offerings and museum park.”

Screenshot of NCMA venues

NCMA has a variety of venues for sophisticated events and weddings.

Families love the museum as well. Meredith Gallagher took her young children to the museum to introduce them to the cultural opportunities available through the museum.

“It’s so rewarding to teach them, watch them learn, and imagine what they will be passionate about as they grow older and make decisions for themselves,” she said. “I have always loved NCMA. I’ve many special memories, best of all telling my dad that he was becoming a grandfather over brunch in the Museum Cafe back in 2016.”

The museum plans more special events in the upcoming months as it gears up for a big anniversary in 2022. In the meantime, Janis said she and the team were excited to continue making memories and great dates.

“There is no better feeling than knowing we make a difference in our visitors’ lives through the power of art,” she said.