With their breathtaking art and glimpses of history, museums make perfect destinations for school trips and outings. But these stoic buildings aren’t just for students. Today, many museums offer private rooms for hosting events or meetings, and some will even close the galleries to create truly unique, private events. Luckily, New Jersey is home to a plethora of museums with rentable space, so plan your next meeting, event or party amongst historic antiques, manicured grounds and priceless art.
For the Love of Art
The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, located in New Brunswick, features artwork that ranges from ancient to contemporary and appeals to all interests.
“The permanent collection spotlights 19th-century French art; American art from the Colonial era to the present; and original illustrations for children’s books,” says Theresa C. Watson, communications coordinator. “The museum also houses some 22,000 works of Russian art from the 14th century to the present, as well as nonconformist art (created between 1956 and 1986) from a dozen former Soviet republics, which are on view in the specially designed, two-floor Dodge Wing.”
The Zimmerli features galleries and classrooms that can accommodate cocktail receptions and sit-down dinners, as well as presentations and performances.
“The museum is available for rental by groups affiliated with Rutgers University, as well as members of the Hamilton Society—the Zimmerli’s highest level of membership—which individuals, organizations and businesses are invited to join at any time,” Watson says. “This special group of art enthusiasts enjoys access to art and culture through an exclusive program of events, including use of the facility.”
The artwork provides a one-of-a-kind backdrop for any special event, and during breaks at a workshop or meeting, attendees have the option to clear their minds by exploring the galleries.
“Like most museums, the Zimmerli locates food and beverage service in central spaces of the museum, such as the lobby or lower atrium,” Watson says. “Guests are then invited to stroll through the galleries at their own pace during the event. Guided tours of exhibitions or specific topics in the permanent collection may also be arranged in advance.”
For 50 years, the Monmouth Museum, located in Lincroft, has presented changing exhibitions in art, history and science to educate and entertain, as well as serve as a destination for creative expression and lifelong learning in its diverse community.
The museum rents its 900-square-foot Nilson Gallery for meetings and small gatherings (seats 75). Depending on the nature of the art on display, the museum occasionally rents its Main Gallery for larger events.
“We maintain four separate gallery spaces, two designed for children’s programming and two for art and history exhibitions,” says Avis Anderson, executive director. “The background of beautiful, evocative artwork enhances the special events that take place in our galleries.”
The museum will also rent out the entire space to corporations for annual holiday parties, opening the children’s wings so families can enjoy all aspects of the museum.
The Montclair Art Museum (MAM) first opened its iconic doors in 1914. In 2002, the historic site doubled its space and has since become the choice location for hosting a variety of events including receptions, cocktail parties, concerts, lectures, meetings and conferences.
“MAM is situated in a bucolic setting in a residential tree-lined area just 12 miles west of New York City,” says Catherine Mastrangelo, marketing and communications manager. “In 2010, The Knot magazine named MAM as one of the top 10 places in New Jersey to hold a wedding.”
Its Leir Hall, located on the lower level of the museum, has the capacity for 200 guests seated or 380 for a cocktail party.
The museum also offers its Lehman Court, located on the main level, with room for 65 guests seated or 135 standing. Arrangements can be made to keep the galleries open during an event, but no food or beverages are allowed in the galleries.
Then there’s the front lawn on South Mountain Avenue. The rental includes use of the museum’s tables and chairs, parking lot, stage, screen and podium, plus microphones in Leir Hall.
“We have distinctive indoor and outdoor spaces, including our spectacular three-story [Leir Hall] with a dramatic skylight,” Mastrangelo says. “Guests can enjoy access to our galleries and even arrange for guided tours with professional docents as part of their overall rental package.”
Located in the Twin Oaks mansion in historic Morristown, the Morris Museum has provided the community with 100 years of thought-provoking exhibitions, entertainment and education. This museum boasts a permanent collection of more than 40,000 objects, ranging from rocks and minerals to model trains, and showcases one of the country’s largest collections of mechanical musical instruments and automata.
The venue has five rooms available for private events: Hennessy Hall, the original foyer of the mansion (60 guests); the elegant Dodge Room (30 guests); the Museum Court (115 guests); the stunning glass Entrance Pavilion (130 guests); plus the museum’s 312-seat Bickford Theatre and the Mansion Conference Room.
“The museum is not a typical banquet hall. All the walls in the museum are so different and add such a unique look that guests will be blown away,” says Caitlin Spratley, private events manager. “Another great benefit of having an event at the museum is that we can shut it down to the public so guests have full access to all the rooms and our galleries.”
Paul DiNero, director, office of conference & event services at Kean University, home of Liberty Hall Museum, says it is considered something of a time capsule for the history of New Jersey.
“We’ve had a number of historical figures walk the grounds—including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Herbert Hoover—so it is really something special,” he says. “One of the most unique aspects is the beauty. The landscape is pristine and it makes an ideal backdrop for any event or activity.”
Liberty Hall offers a number of options for events and meeting spaces, including a tent, perfect for outdoor parties of up to 150 guests. Its 1882 Carriage House is suitable for sit-down dinners for up to 75 people. Additionally, the Wagon Shed, which overlooks the gardens, provides an intimate setting for up to 60 guests and is regularly used for board meetings and holiday events.
Check Out Clinton
According to Marjorie Frankel Nathanson, executive director of the Hunterdon Art Museum, the museum is a center for contemporary art, craft and design in a historic setting. Originally constructed in 1836, the building is a former stone grist mill. The 1870 Lowthorp Truss Bridge spans the Raritan River just beyond the museum’s terrace.
“The museum is well regarded for offering more than a dozen exhibitions and 200 art classes and workshops annually,” Nathanson says. “What sets us apart is our ability to offer renters one of the most picturesque and photographed scenic vistas in all of New Jersey.” The museum features several galleries and
an outdoor terrace that offer diverse options for any potential meeting or event. Inside, the multilevel venue can accommodate as many as 150 guests. The main second-floor gallery seats 80 for dinner, and the third-floor gallery seats 40.
“Our new outdoor terrace offers about 5,000 square feet of space overlooking the south branch of the Raritan River, a waterfall and the Red Mill,” Nathanson says. “Our space can accommodate diverse groups, from intimate gatherings to larger corporate events.”
The Red Mill Museum Village next door is a 501(c)3 nonprofit living history museum nestled on 10 pristine acres adjacent to approximately 500 feet of river frontage and backed by an approximate 100-foot, dramatic quarry wall.
Its grounds—with its rolling lawn, towering stone cliffs, tranquil river and rushing waterfall— provide a popular site for private rentals. It is said to be one of the most photographed sites in the state.
“The museum site also features 11 other historic buildings each with exhibitions on display inside. Guests can enjoy the rich history of the site before, after or during a meeting break, by wandering the site and visiting the historic buildings,” says Amy Boyce, curator of public programming. The Red Mill Museum also has a small conference space in its modern administration building, which can be rented during museum operating hours.