Art for Art’s Sake: Asian Exhibit Seeks to Engage Students with Museum

Photo by Helen Zhang '15 | Right, Smith’s K-Pop Dance Crew and left, EKTA’s Meghna Purkayastha ’16 performed at Night at Your Museum last Friday night.

Photo by Helen Zhang ’15 | Right, Smith’s K-Pop Dance Crew and left, EKTA’s Meghna Purkayastha ’16 performed at Night at Your Museum last Friday night.


Evelyn Crunden ’13
Features Editor

While there are always competing events vying for attention on Friday nights, those who made the migration to the Smith College Museum of Art last week found themselves in for a treat. Hopefully the first in a series of annual student-aimed events, “Night at Your Museum” extended a hand to students interested in learning more about the hidden wonders of the art world on campus. Last Friday’s evening event celebrated the Museum’s latest exhibition, “Collecting Art of Asia,” a showcase of over 120 works from over 80 artists.

“Smith is well-known for its Western art,” said Shama Rahman ’13, the student behind the night’s marketing push. “But we’re a globally engaged college and this is art on a global level. A lot of people don’t know we have a history with Asian art dating back a hundred years.”

That fact is, according to Rahman, one of two driving forces behind the goals she had set for the night.

“We are really lucky to have this museum, but it’s not encyclopedic like the Met or MFA,” she said. “We are trying to have a really strong showing in a few areas – not a breadth of content across many genres. [We’re more interested in] a collection of collections.”

Accessibility has also been a central aim for the museum’s workers, as they seek to reach out to more students and make them aware of the unique opportunities available to them. Unlike barriers that may prevent many visitors from visiting large-scale public museums, Smith’s is free for students, within walking distance and hosts many events each semester, all geared toward engaging the student population and opening up art education for all.

“I thought it was a lovely collection and incredibly informative,” said Taylor Fallon ’16. “I had no idea we had these pieces at Smith and it was wonderful to learn more.”

Rebecca Firkser ’15, responsible for programming and planning, noted, “Our goal for Night at Your Museum was to strengthen student awareness of and appreciation for the SCMA, to increase student social experiences at the SCMA and to increase awareness of our Asian art collection that created the ‘Collecting Art of Asia’ exhibition.”

“We had an amazing [showing] at the event – 417 students came out on a Friday night,” Firkser continued. “This was exactly what we needed to solidify the idea that many students would gladly come to the museum at a time that isn’t usually consumed with classes and homework. Students may have shown up for the free food, but they all went into the gallery to check out the incredible exhibition as well.”

“Night at Your Museum” held more than just the Asian art experience for students. Participants enjoyed food served by Tryon Common, the new Museum café, music provided by WOZQ DJ Tiffany Nova, calligraphy and origami workshops as well as performances by EKTA’s Meghna Purkayastha ’16 and Smith’s K-Pop Dance Crew. Students from SMAC (Student Museum Advisory Committee) also tabled near the entrance to the exhibit, offering raffle tickets and general information.

“[This event] provides [students] with… the opportunity to engage with the museum,” said Frances Lazare ’14, a SMAC liaison. “This year’s event celebrates… a mix of contemporary and traditional pieces [offering] a comprehensive overview of SCMA’s varying interests under the enormous umbrella of Asian arts.”

Sabrina Montenigro ’13 found the night informative as well as relevant.

“[I am working on a] museum capstone project examining strategies for increasing SCMA’s appeal and accessibility to students and the greater Noho community,” Montenigro said. “I’ve been involved with SCMA since my sophomore year, so I’m used to being there with the same group of people who share my interest. It was great to see so many people there hanging out with friends, enjoying the food, art and special performances, who might have never even been inside the museum before. I hope the event inspired lots of Smithies to visit the museum more often, and I would love to see SCMA put on more student-only events in the future!”

An outreach push for the events will begin soon, as those involved seek to use social media and varying forms of outreach to reach those outside of the Brown Fine Arts Center.

“It’s difficult for all students to hear about events sometimes because the marketing for them are targeted to specific departments,” Rahman noted. “We need to make this available to everyone, and the more people who know about it and feel comfortable attending, the better.”

The exhibit will be available until May 26. Events will be held at the museum throughout the semester, including but not limited to Free Family Day from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. on March 2, Second Friday from 4–8 p.m. on March 8 and a public lecture by Dr. Masummeh Farhad at 5 p.m. on April 5. All are welcome and invited to attend.

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