Since 1967, the William Benton Museum of Art has amassed a large, diverse collection and created various public exhibitions. UConn President Thomas Katsouleas recently announced one such exhibition slated for the 2023 academic year, as “the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute (UCHI) received a $275,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to support the exhibition and programming for ‘Seeing Truth: Art, Science, and Making Knowledge (1750-2023).’” This exciting development is bound to challenge our presumptions about art, university priorities, and our world as a whole.
If you’re expecting merely the typical fare of paintings and sculptures from this exhibit, then you’re in for a treat. According to UConn Today, “‘Seeing Truth’ will bring together scientific instruments, photographs, educational props, textbooks, paintings, taxidermy, expedition materials and maps.” Thus the line between “scientific artifact” and “art” will be blurred and consequently provide us with different contexts from which to interpret truth and knowledge.
In light of UConn’s perceived push toward STEM research and employment, this upcoming exhibit is especially encouraging. As Katsouleas said upon its announcement, “one of the most exciting things about the humanities is that it really connects the work we’re all doing … Whether it’s fine arts, engineering, agriculture or nursing, every corner of the university benefits from the insight and knowledge imparted by humanities research.”
Other US university museums will display “Seeing Truth” after its UConn tenure, indicating that this humanities-based initiative is spreading nationwide.
But as with any public exhibition, “Seeing Truth’s” lasting legacy rests upon its portrayal of and impact upon our world in its current state. After all, Alexis Boylan, UCHI’s director of academic affairs and an associate professor of art, art history, and Africana studies, notes a desire “to have that dialogue in museums, pulling in the public to art, science, and museum spaces in new and challenging ways… We need big thinking, and new kinds of thinking, for big problems.”
“Seeing Truth” also serves as a critical component of UCHI’s “The Future of Truth,” an interdisciplinary project that seeks to revitalize truth’s societal relevance. Hopefully this exhibit fulfills its intended purpose and leads to the support of similarly ambitious projects.
Truthfully, UConn’s Benton Museum is bent on exhibiting thought-provoking art. As UConn students (or alumni by “Seeing Truth”’s public unveiling), we should avidly await this exhibit’s illustration of our world and the byproducts of its profound display.