Dating is hard, am I right? Even after the messy, awkward phase of establishing mutual attraction you have to figure out something to do that somehow involves food, drinks, entertainment and most difficult of all, engaging conversation. It’s enough to make you give up before you even start. But before you lose all hope and resign yourself to Tinder hookups to fill the void in your cold, calloused heart, consider the many hassle-free date night options available to you courtesy of your friendly, neighborhood contemporary art museum.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville (MOCA) is a cultural institution that has been enriching the lives of people in Northeast Florida for going on a century. Now owned and operated by the University of North Florida, the world-class museum offers a host of programs and amenities that make it an incredibly attractive date night proposition, not the least of which is its incredible on-site restaurant NOLA whose motto is “satisfy the stomach, satiate the heart.”
“Every time you eat at NOLA you are supporting the museum’s programming and mission to raise awareness about the art, artists and ideas of our time,” says Nan Kavanaugh, MOCA’s director of communications & marketing. “You are also saying that Downtown is safe, and that you support art organizations based Downtown who are actively trying to make our city center more focused on art culture.”
With that in mind, here are a few museum experiences currently on offer that make for the perfect date night scenario.
Who doesn’t like movies? I would argue that movies are arguably the perfect date situation. For starters, <not> talking is basically required so there’s no need to make awkward conversation if you’re one of those people who can’t think of anything interesting to say. Furthermore, if the person you’re with is one of those awful people who feels the need to talk through everything, you can go ahead and squash it before you completely ruin each other’s lives years down the road. Finally, love or hate the film in question, it provides a natural topic of conversation after the house lights come on. Movies are great.
The only thing better than a movie on date night is a free movie and MOCA serves up free independent films every other Thursday. For the better part of the past two decades, UNF’s Movies on the House has shown independent films that speak to the important cultural discussions of the day and now they are bringing them to MOCA’s theater for the entire community to enjoy. Since it’s Thursday, you can split a plate of haricot vert fries or sweet potato nachos and bring your food into the theater. The bar is open, too, so you’ll be good and loose for whatever the rest of the evening has in store after a few hand-crafted cocktails. Try the light and refreshing “Gallery Mule” or go all in with a spirit-forward Sazerac.
Third Thursday Tours
Let’s be honest, the only thing harder than dating is art itself, especially contemporary art. While some of it (read: pop art) is very pleasing to look at on its own, other works require a good bit of context to fully grasp. If you’ve ever scoffed at the primitivist abstract expressionism of a Rothko or thought, “what am I missing?” as you looked for meaning in a minimalist painting by Yves Klein, you could probably benefit from a little exposition. Despite my ability to name drop a handful of modern artists, I still consider myself an art dummy in need of a considerable amount of hand-holding when it comes to viewing and appreciating contemporary art. In other words, you are not alone!
Thankfully for us a MOCA educator or a member of the curatorial team leads a gallery tour every third Thursday of the month exploring a different exhibition. Whether it’s an in-depth examination of the museum’s current site-specific Project Atrium installation or a thorough tour of a traveling show, these incredibly insightful experiences will enlighten you to the often obscured meaning behind works that might otherwise be difficult or even impossible to comprehend at first glance. Whether you happened to be moved emotionally or intellectually by the interpretation is a matter of personal opinion. But either way, it makes for some good conversation over the catch of the day or a roasted beet salad. Just be sure you don’t sleep on the museum’s expertly curated list of fine wines. This is a date after all.
For something a little more casual, stop by MOCA on Art Walk where you can peruse the museum’s galleries for no charge whatsoever and take advantage of their super affordable Happy Hour menu. Get down on some pesto chicken sliders or shrimp tacos for what amounts to food truck prices and stop by the bar for a $4 craft beer.
Contemporaries Happy Hour
If you’re riding solo these days (nothing wrong with that), consider joining MOCA’s young professionals group The Contemporaries. For an additional $25 a year, Contemporaries receive all the benefits of regular membership plus exclusive extras including an invitation to their monthly happy hour meet-ups where you can mix and mingle with like-minded 21-40 year olds. Feel free to bring a date also as members are allowed up to four non-member guests (you dog, you). Or you never know, you just might meet someone outside of the bar for once in your life and won’t Mom be proud when you explain where you met.
So there you have it, your new one-stop-shop for dating in the modern age. If you can’t make some magic happen after a night at MOCA, that’s your problem, friend.