This week’s Secret of SoCal is the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art.

Located in Downtown Hartford, Connecticut, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, more commonly known as the Wadsworth, is the oldest continually operating public art museum in the United States. Founded in 1842 and opened to the public in 1844, it is home to a well-rounded collection of artistic masterpieces.

This isn’t a regular ‘museum’- the Wadsworth is considered an Atheneum. Since its origin, the Wadsworth housed the Hartford Public Library and the Connecticut Historical Society. It takes an all-encompassing approach to culture, art and learning.

While buying my ticket, an employee at the front entrance explained to me the importance of ‘firsts’ at the Wadsworth: The School of American Ballet’s first performance ever was at the Wadsworth, the first American exhibit of surrealism was at the Wadsworth, the first U.S. acquired Picasso retrospective piece is at the Wadsworth… the list of firsts is endless, which is why the Wadsworth is a timeless location. Today, the Wadsworth is on the national register of historical locations and houses around 50,000 pieces of art ranging from 5,000 years.

The Wadsworth collection hasn’t always had such variety. According to its website, the original Wadsworth collection contained: “78 paintings, 2 marble busts, 1 portrait miniature and 1 bronze sculpture” that all originated from the family’s personal belongings.

Present day, the walls of the Wadsworth are home to French and American Impressionist paintings, dreamy Hudson River School landscapes, vibrant contemporary masterpieces, world-renowned Baroque and Surrealist paintings, and my personal favorite, a collection of American colonial furniture and paintings.

In mid-September of 2015, the Wadsworth had its Grand Reopening- refurbished collection galleries became more interactive than ever, and new major exhibits debuted. This 33-million dollar renovation infused a modern flair to the historic spaces and expanded 17 new galleries to fit the eclectic, ever-expanding art collection.

I spent hours exploring the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and I suggest you do too! Check back next week for another Secret of SoCal!

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