School children sitting cross legged with books in their laps reading.

A Magical Menagerie: Exploring Dragons, Griffins, Unicorns, and More at The Met Cloisters

January 18–February 13, 2024
Previously on view at The Met Cloisters, Gallery 007
Free with Museum admission

Animals, both real and imagined, make frequent appearances in medieval art. They are included in artworks as decorative elements, cultural and religious symbols, and as a reflection of the natural world. As part of The Met Cloisters’ commitment to serving neighbors in upper Manhattan, in fall 2023, fourth grade students from P. S. 48 PO Michael J. Buczek explored the mythical beasts of The Met Cloisters and responded by creating their own modern medieval creatures.

During two visits to The Met Cloisters, students noticed a griffin peering over a stone doorway, a dragon with a tightly coiled tail painted on a wall, and a magical unicorn woven into showstopping tapestries. They considered how medieval artworks were made and what materials were used, from pigments made from stones to threads made of silver and gold. The young artists also examined how these artworks tell stories about medieval communities, religious beliefs, and inspire creative storytelling today.

Back in the classroom, the students designed their own imagined creatures. Exploring new materials, they drew, blended, and painted to create their creatures and their habitats. On view here at The Met Cloisters, their works of art combine different elements of real and mythical animals to form beasts with qualities that range from fearsome and ferocious to cute and kind—reflecting what the artists themselves might want to find in a magical creature.

The Met Cloisters gratefully acknowledges P. S. 48 art teacher Félix Portela, Met teaching artist Damian Quiñones, and the entire P. S. 48 community for their support of this program.