First Thursday immerses students in Souvenirs D’Afrique 

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African hand drumming, play-doh, and open mic in the galleries during First Thursday at the Benton. Talented students crafted the cast of Sesame Street.   Photo by Elizabeth He / The Daily Campus

African hand drumming, play-doh, and open mic in the galleries during First Thursday at the Benton. Talented students crafted the cast of Sesame Street. Photo by Elizabeth He / The Daily Campus

This month’s First Thursday at the Benton was practically a party, with great music, snacks and fun activities to take part in. 

As always, First Thursday featured a live WHUS DJ who played a selection of rap and hip hop songs which helped make the museum resemble a high-end club. This worked to get rid of the usual quiet art museum vibe that tends to make people a little less comfortable and more likely to whisper in the Benton. To help patrons relax further, mini pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and hot apple cider were offered at the door. Once inside, volunteers manning the info table were quick to give out funky Benton stickers, featuring recent or current exhibits, and introduce the many activities set up around the room. 

“[Students should come here] because it’s fun! I don’t think, beside art majors and the fine arts, I don’t think a lot of people really know that the museum is here,” Eva Sloano, a third-semester art history major and intern for First Thursday, said. “A lot of people who have even been coming today are like, ‘I saw a flier and it sounded cool,’ and there’s just a lot of cool things because you don’t necessarily need to know art or really know what you’re doing in a museum. I think it’s a fun way for people who aren’t comfortable with a museum setting to come here and see what it’s about.” 

One of the most popular activities was the scavenger hunt, where participants were asked to find the art connected to the images on a piece of paper. This was a great way for students to immerse themselves in the Souvenirs D’Afrique exhibit, as it made them look closely at each individual statue, tapestry and artifact. Some of the images turned out to be very small pieces of much larger works, making them difficult to locate. Others were tricky because certain statues resembled each other. Those who stuck it out and found each piece of art were awarded a fabulous Benton pencil. 

“I think my favorite part was doing the scavenger activity because I realized that, even though I come here a lot, I still learn a lot,” Meghan Stepniak, a first-semester art major, said. “I noticed a lot of things that I hadn’t previously seen before that just enriched my experience more.” 

In order to engage students in every part of the exhibit, they were given the opportunity to play with different mediums. One station handed out playdough so that people could recreate the African masks that decorated the walls of the room. This helped to make students look closer at the individual masks, as well as give them a relaxing activity to destress with. 

Toward the entrance of the room was The Benton Art Cart, which had several foldable chairs, large pieces of paper, notebooks and various drawing utensils. Students could be seen around the room recreating pieces of art and riffing off the ones on display to make something truly unique. No one manned the cart, so students could come and go freely. 

Later on in the night, 15 minute-long classes on how to use African hand drums were offered in the corner of the gallery. Some students expressed that this was a draw for them, and one of the main reasons they had come to First Thursday. 

“I came here for the drum playing part, originally, and I thought it would be a good time,” Stepniak said. 

First Thursday is open to everyone, not just students, so if you missed this month’s, feel free to stop in for November’s First Thursday and see what a great time the Benton has to offer! 


Rebecca Maher is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at rebecca.l.maher@uconn.edu.

 

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