This week I visited the William Benton Museum of Art, strolling through the stunning gallery before picking up a pumpkin decorating kit and a coloring page of Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream.’ I spent Friday painting my pumpkin while watching ‘Hubie Halloween’ in an evening of comedy and creativity.
The Benton’s Creative Pumpkin Decorating event was part of their “Thursdays with the Benton” program, complete with weekly crafts, collaborations and workshops. This week’s event was open to 25 students, but the museum staff ended up putting together 35 kits. The kit included a mini pumpkin, acrylic paint, mod podge, silk leaves, a paintbrush and some handy instructions. After painting the pumpkin white and letting it dry, I added some silk leaves with mod podge and voila — a beautiful piece of fall decor!
“Thursdays with the Benton” stemmed from “First Thursdays at the Benton,” an open house where the museum was open till 8 p.m., partnering with UConn departments and student organizations to offer in-person activities. With COVID-19, the Benton has adapted, putting together art kits or holding virtual events instead. And unlike its monthly predecessor, “Thursdays with the Benton” happens every Thursday!
“The goal is continuing engagement with UConn students and the general public while people may not feel safe about visiting indoor spaces,” Karen Sommer, the Benton’s Operations and Programs manager, said. “We want people to know that the State Museum is still there for you.”
Past events include DJ set playlist from WHUS and the Benton Museum Challenge, where students recreated pieces from the museum’s collection using household items and their environment. The museum also hosts a biweekly event, “Critical Looking: A Virtual Dialogue” hosted by Assistant Curator and Academic Liaison Amanda Douberley, via Zoom.
“This compact dialogue program is designed to sharpen your powers of observation, critical thinking and analytical skills using a single artwork. Each session uses a different work of art from our collection,” said Sommer.
On Oct. 15, the Benton will host a presentation in collaboration with UConn’s Project Fashion Club, and on Oct. 16, there will be a panel discussion, “Covid & Creativity,” with UConn faculty members on how creative professionals have been adapting during the pandemic.
On Oct. 22, the museum will be offering DIY kits for fall candle holders and on Oct. 29, Magdalena Pawlowski, a UConn Studio Art graduate student, will be leading a drawing workshop on still life. Registration for these events can be completed on the Benton’s website.
The Benton has been doing a phenomenal job promoting creativity during a time of crisis. Art is a great form of stress relief, and being able to sit down and decorate a pumpkin was hugely comforting during midterm season. According to Sommer, being a small department, the Benton staff often take on many roles to engage visitors. And engaged I was!
If you are on campus, be sure to give the Benton’s exhibitions a look and pick up a coloring page! If you are at home, check out their online exhibitions or tune into some virtual events! It is well worth it.