The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum grows marvelously moody at night when low lighting gleams off the wood paneling and visitors gather in the glow of the courtyard to sip the cocktail of the month.
On the third Thursday of the month, Gardner After Hours channels the spirit of the museum’s founder, one of Boston’s legendary hostesses. Like a good party, each evening has a theme and enough activities to keep everybody busy. Although the museum stays open until 9 p.m. every Thursday, Gardner After Hours events welcome attendees to inhabit, rather than merely visit, the museum.
Activities in the new building embrace new tech (like Twitter and Instagram photos), while interactive palazzo activities are more old school: socializing and flirting in the courtyard or sketching in the galleries. Live music sometimes provides a soundtrack. Many attendees dine in Café G, or try their hands at art projects.
But the romantic, haunting shadows of the old palazzo inevitably prove the greater draw. The museum seems to come into its own under the softer evening light. Gallery talks highlight different aspects of the collection, but always circle back to the character of Gardner herself. You can almost see her standing at the edge of the shadows, watching her party with a knowing smile.
Patricia Harris and David Lyon
GARDNER AFTER HOURS 280 The Fenway, 617-566-1401, www.gardnermuseum.org. Third Thursday, 5-9 p.m. Adults $15, seniors $12, college students $5, free to students at selected colleges.