The Mead Opens its Doors, Bringing Art Outside and Students In
Issue   |   Tue, 04/17/2018 - 21:32
Image courtesy of Hildi Gabel
Laimah Osman’s station was one of five artist stations outside the Mead this past Friday, when the museum hosted its “Red Eye | Black Tie “ evening event.

On Thursday, April 12, the Mead Art Museum stayed open to visitors all night as workshops and events took place. Coinciding with what seemed to be the beginning of warm weather, the event, “Red Eye | Black Tie,” transformed our campus into a temporary hub for art interaction that also aimed to establish connections far beyond this weekend. The event was a joint effort put on by the Mead Museum, the Association of Amherst Students, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, The Office of Student Activities and various campus resource enters. Exhibited in the line for gelato and crowds of mingling students was a deliberate attempt to put art into the hands and lives of students and in doing so, facilitate a community centered around art.

“Red Eye | Black Tie” began with a reception at 8 p.m. on Thursday. Students streamed in and out of the Mead, meeting with the five visiting artists who had work set up outside the building. Live music and light catering was offered, and the espresso and gelato truck parked right outside proved to be a major draw. Throughout the night, new eyes settled on the art at the Mead, which currently boasts the “HOUSE” exhibition drawn from various artists. Filled with students and staff alike, the Mead boasted a vibrant atmosphere on the night.

The event continued through Friday, as five artists created pieces with students under the white tent outside the museum. The artists, Christybomb, Patrick Eugene, Laimah Osman, Adriana Sharpé and Vick Quezada, were commissioned to visit Amherst and collaborate with the various resource centers in order to make art pieces that would resonate with students on campus. Before the event, each artist talked through their creative intentions and the relevancy of their workshops with the student and staff leaders of resource centers. The artists then created the pieces on Friday, all while students and visitors spoke with the creators and added to the pieces themselves. The final works, collaborative efforts made by the Amherst community, were displayed Friday night.

Sharpé, the visiting artist who collaborated with the Center for International Student Engagement, painted a portrait of Amherst junior Shreeansh Agrawal against bright hills and sky. Sharpé explained that the landscape was inspired by Ecuador, her home country. By painting Shreeansh into her space of personal belonging, she extended the connection of her home to another, touching on the themes of “home” and international living that the CISE works with. Osman, meanwhile, worked with the Queer Resource Center and explored the meaning of the word “queer” through her art. Osman created colored prints on paper and invited participants to add an image or word which they identified with the word “queer” using water-soluble watercolor crayons. The final piece visually captured the nebulous and diverse meaning of the word in the Amherst community.

The resource centers that worked with the artists will keep the final pieces. Danielle Amodeo ’13, the Mead’s public programs and marketing coordinator, explained that this key component extends ownership of the art to students in ways that hadn’t previously been facilitated. Art owned by the Mead has built-in constraints; pieces from the archives and storage cannot be readily moved, and events planned around art require extensive coordination and complicated logistics. The resource centers will be able to easily and independently move, display and plan events around these new pieces, allowing student agency over art on campus.

Much has changed in the culture of art since Amodeo herself attended Amherst. Amodeo often spent time studying at the Mead, and while she enjoyed the Mead’s collections, she felt that the art culture was somewhat removed from the wider student body. The Mead and other Amherst organizations have since worked to bring art closer to the forefront of the campus community and make art more relevant to the modern and diverse experiences of students. “Red Eye | Black Tie” has further facilitated this transformation of the arts at Amherst, bringing students together around visual arts through both Thursday night’s community gathering and Friday’s collaborative art-making. Amodeo’s long-term goal is to keep the Mead’s doors open: to make the Mead and the culture of art on campus accessible and meaningful to the community’s daily life and provide students with outlets for ownership over the creative process.