Mead Community Day Creates Artistic Dialogue Across Ages
Issue   |   Wed, 11/01/2017 - 00:13
Courtesy of Annika Lunstad ’21
As part of its Community Day last weekend, the Mead brought in actors to spark discussion about the art work and bring the depicted subjects to life.

This past Saturday, the Mead Art Museum hosted its bi-annual “Community Day at the Mead.” The event featured a variety of activities designed for both young children and college students.

The event was representative of the Mead’s prioritization of community engagement with art over the traditional stuffiness associated with art museums. The Mead made its art accessible to the community by having Amherst student actors explain pieces and answer questions in a “living arts” tour during the event.

The fun started outside the museum with a photo station complete with costumes, a photographer and backdrop curtain of silver tinsel. I personally did not try this, but it was adorable to watch kids excitedly try on costumes and have their pictures taken. There was also a station with candy, which I did enthusiastically make use of, as well as foam pumpkin decorating.

Inside the museum, visitors were first greeted by an attendant distributing clipboards with a Mead scavenger hunt and “Mad Lib” games tailored to the day’s festivities. While the scavenger hunt may have been meant for someone just learning colors, I filled the whole thing out eagerly.

One of the other stations in the room, and a highlight of the event, was a table for visitors to plant their own succulents in a mason jars with dirt and moss.

This main room also held portraits that photographer Jonathan Jackson ’19 took of students at a photography event on Oct. 26.

In the Rotherwas Gallery, to the right of the main gallery, was a table full of what a volunteer termed “the very best parts of fall.” There was a huge box piled high with delicious cider donuts and another filled with delicious fall-themed dessert bars. They had coffee, apple cider and hot water for tea. There were also a number of caramel apples sitting alongside the other refreshments.

The scavenger hunt then led visitors to other rooms in the museum. The instructions asked to find a painting or two in most galleries and then answer a question about the piece. The questions were designed to be accessible for a range of ages so the scavenger hunt was not that difficult, but it definitely furthered the goal of helping people engage more with their museum.

The “living arts tour” began in the main gallery at 2 p.m. Several volunteers, dressed as the subjects of the photographs, sat in front of their respective pieces and talked to the audience about the piece. This allowed the audience to learn more about the artist and their intentions for the work in a casual situation.

The “living arts” tour began in front of an eight-part series by Tim Hetherington featuring soldiers photographed while sleeping. A student actor sat on the floor with a blanket and pillow and explained Hetherington’s goals behinds these photos. He explained how photographing soldiers in vulnerable positions as they slept humanizes them and shows them “as their mothers see them.”

He also talked about Hetherington’s personal story and what might have motivated him to create a work like this. This method was actually quite successful at holding the attention of some of the younger kids in the audience who had just eaten several donuts.

In the next part of the “living arts” tour, a student actor dressed in the same distinct colors as the horse in Mimi Cherono Ng’ok’s photo of a magestic horse on the beach. The actor talked about Ng’ok’s thoughts behind her work and asked the audience what they thought of different aspects of the photograph. The next “living arts” guide, dressed all in green with fake ivy on her head, talked about Ng’ok’s other large picture, which features an image of an dense rainforest scene.

College students and elementary school students alike engaged in discussions about the differences between the pieces and the effects of a busy versus simple backgrounds in artwork. For me, living in a bubble as college students nearly inevitably do, it was refreshing to interact in discussion with people from different points in life.

Ultimately, the event was an enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon and get to know the Mead in a relaxed environment. Furthermore, it was fun to see and interact with other members of the community around Amherst. This is a bi-annual event, so be sure to check out the next one.