The William Benton Museum of Art prides itself on being the University of Connecticut’s core sanctuary for avant-garde works. Located right next to the Beanery Café – arguably UConn’s coziest cafe on campus – so feel free to throw on a beanie, grow a full beard, lace up some combat boots, grab a coffee and verify your hipsterness by entering the museum’s decorated gallery. Of course, one doesn’t have to be a hipster to enjoy art. With campus being near full capacity again, the Benton plans for a smooth transition from virtual events back to in-person opportunities, all of which will be open to every student.
In preparation for “Weekend of Welcome” (WOW), the museum will open its doors today, Aug. 27, to host a number of activities. Those who visit from 12 to 4 p.m. today, Saturday or Sunday will be able to receive a free T-shirt, hear information about and sign up for the museum’s student membership program (which offers two free laptop stickers each semester), engage in sidewalk chalk relaxation and, naturally, explore the museum. To participate, students are required to bring their school IDs.
Additionally, two exhibitions will be open at the start of the semester. The first, titled “Immigrant Eyes,” features works by Connecticut-based photographer Joe Standart, whose 2004 series “Portrait of America” garnered much attention from the New London community. After spending some time in the storefronts of downtown New London, Standart’s photographs have found a new exhibition home, where the Benton has installed both indoor and outdoor galleries for viewing.
“The exhibition is inside the museum and also outdoors,” Amanda Douberley, assistant curator and academic liaison of the Benton, said. “If you’ve been on campus anywhere near the museum this summer, you might have noticed these really large scale portraits that are printed on steel panels and installed adjacent to the museum. So we will have a scavenger hunt that students can do in the outdoor part of the exhibition.”
The second exhibition, which opens Aug. 31, showcases works by UConn’s very own artists. In the “2021 Studio Art Faculty Exhibition,” studio art teachers from UConn’s Department of Art and Art History will have their media presented through a variety of different concentrations, including graphic design, illustration/animation, sculpture/ceramics and more.
There will be an opening reception for both “Immigrant Eyes” and the faculty exhibition on Thursday, Sept. 9 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Just in case you couldn’t get enough of Standart’s eye-opening works, or you were curious what the artist himself has to say about his photography, the reception will feature a walk-through of the outdoor gallery with the artist starting at 5:30 p.m. There will be music and food, making the event ideal to attend with some friends.
As for whether the museum’s digital resource, “The Benton at Home,” will still be up and running now that most students are back on campus, Douberley offered an explanation for how certain programs are expected to function.
“We are hoping to have our first Thursday program back this semester and in-person, so that is the first Thursday of [every] month starting in October,” Douberley said. “The museum will be open late and we’ll have pet therapy, WHUS DJs in the gallery and also some kind of activity related to the exhibitions. In terms of other programs that would be online, all of our public programs — the studio art faculty artist talks, the panel discussion that we have coming up in October — those are all being planned as hybrid. But we’re shifting away from doing something every week like we did last year, with more of an emphasis on some of our in-person programs.”
After a year of being in a primarily remote setting, the Benton Museum is ready for its comeback, bringing in new activities, exhibitions and events to spruce up the beginning of a long-awaited return to campus. For more information regarding these opportunities, visit https://benton.uconn.edu/ or follow @bentonmuseumuconn on Instagram.