Art tour tells a historical vignette about university history

Students touring the art and architecture of the William Benton Museum of Art, Laurel Hall and the Rowe Center on Wednesday, April 26. The tour was titled "Art in Small Bites." (Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Students touring the art and architecture of the William Benton Museum of Art, Laurel Hall and the Rowe Center on Wednesday, April 26. The tour was titled "Art in Small Bites." (Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

At this point in the semester, a student’s time is mostly spent preparing for final exams, papers and projects. For a small group of individuals, however, their time was spent Wednesday afternoon touring the art and architecture of the William Benton Museum of Art, Laurel Hall and the Rowe Center for Undergraduate Education with Judy McChesney, a docent from The Benton.

Students entering their first semester at the University of Connecticut often go on tours with current students to familiarize themselves with campus. On these tours they also learn about some of the history of the university.

This tour, titled “Art in Small Bites,” was similar to those, but focused more on the significance of the art and architecture.

“The tours are short and concise in the hopes that if you see something briefly on this tour you’ll be able to return to it later for a more in-depth appreciation,” McChesney said.

McChesney first spoke about some of the Benton’s architectural features and style. It is styled in collegiate gothic with triptych windows. McChesney explained what those features are and how they connect to the greater history of the area around the university.

One such detail that emerged from this explanation was that the Benton was added to an already existing building in 2004. This may not be a secret now, but in terms of the tour, the architectural features and style were designed with the same styles as the old building as a symbolic echo to the past, according to McChesney.

The Rowe Center facades came next. The facades, as many may or may not notice on their walks past the building, have letters carved into the stone. If one has ever wondered why those letters were there, McChesney’s tour answered that.

The letters are extrapolated from the name of the building. The building was the Rowe Center for Undergraduate Education. This spelt out words that reflect the university’s values, and the same kind of style can be found on other buildings. Some of the words were “focus,” “effort,” “reinvent” and “society.”

Closing the tour was a visit into Laurel Hall to see the paintings within. The art in the building was commissioned to represent educational values. The artist commissioned was a Connecticut resident, Peter Waite. His art in Laurel Hall depicts a lot of imagery with chairs. McChesney said that the chairs stand to invite viewers to see the painting from the point of view of the chair in the painting. In one such painting a chair is depicted in a children’s library while another is an electric chair.

“I was really happy to get a feeling for the art and history that Judy showed the tour. I want to do more research on it,” a post-doctorate associate in computational biology, Neranjan Perera, said.

Overall, the tour revealed some interesting facts about the history of the university. Though only four other people attended, the short nature of the tour stands to at least give out sound-bites of knowledge for people to follow up on later, something that a busy student who a passion for art and architecture can at least know exists for their interests later.


Matthew Gilbert is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.gilbert@uconn.edu.