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The inviting new Parrish Art Museum

Audrey Zhang, 10, a fourth grader at Michael

Audrey Zhang, 10, a fourth grader at Michael F. Stokes Elementary School in Levittown, depicts children walking through the Parrish Art Museum on the East End for a Kidsday story. Audrey has been an artist for Newsday's Kidsday section for the past two years. Credit: Kidsday / Audrey Zhang

Have you seen the new Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill? It's hard to miss it when you drive by! It looks like an extremely long potato barn in the middle of a big field -- but modern and beautiful. The new Parrish makes you want to go inside because it does not look like your everyday museum. It makes you feel excited and curious. The first time I went, it was opening weekend, so there were crowds who had all been waiting a long time to see it. You could feel the excitement.

What I first noticed and love about the new museum is the light -- all the big windows, the tall ceilings, cool rafters and skylights. Even before I went into the galleries to see the art, it didn't feel like I was in a claustrophobic, dark, older museum with paintings or sculptures that I might not understand. Instead, it is open and bright. The art pops off the walls. It makes you feel stimulated but not overwhelmed.

You might be surprised to know that while the Parrish Art Museum is brand-new, the museum itself is actually the oldest museum on Long Island. It was founded in 1898 by Samuel Longstreth Parrish, a lawyer. For more than 100 years, it was in Southampton Village. The Parrish is famous for its collection of American art, especially art and artists of the East End. I loved the landscape paintings, portraits and mostly the bold, colorful, contemporary pieces -- some paintings are so big they have a wall of their own.

Guides (called docents) can give you a tour and explain the history of the art. There's also an awesome cafe (try the macaroni and cheese), plus a "black box theater," which means you can see movies or performances here, too. And a beautiful gift shop has lots of interesting things to buy.

Education is very important here. They give tours, workshops and classes. My fifth-grade class had a field trip there, and my friends had a great visit. This really is a must-see museum. Go with your family and bring your friends. See which painting you like best! Take a cool virtual tour at The museum is at 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill; call 631-283-2118.

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