The Benton’s Bulletin: What to look forward to this semester at the Museum of Art

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The William Benton Museum of Art, located in the campus quad directly across from the Student Union, is not just the University of Connecticut’s resident art collection, but a museum for the whole state of Connecticut. The Benton is home to thousands of art pieces, ranging from the 15th to 21st century. 

After being closed for all of winter break, the Benton will be reopening on Tuesday, Feb. 1, kicking off what is to be a busy schedule of events and exhibitions for this spring semester. 

The Daily Campus was lucky enough to speak with Dr. Amanda Douberley, the Benton’s assistant curator and academic liaison over email, to discuss the Benton’s plans for these next few months. 

One thing the museum is eagerly anticipating is the opening of their new exhibit – Remembering the Nut Museum: Visionary Art of Elizabeth Tashjian – on Feb. 1, 2022. 

“The exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Nut Museum, which Old Lyme artist Elizabeth Tashjian opened in the ground floor of her home in April 1972,” Douberley said. “The Benton will feature a recreation of the Nut Museum’s main exhibition space, a retrospective of Miss Tashjian’s appearances on late-night television, as well as her nut-themed paintings and sculptures, and her collection of nuts.” 

Tashjian appeared on a number of late night television shows in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming well known for her nut collection. Sadly, Tashjian passed away in 2007, but her collection will live on in the Benton Museum. 

“THE EXHIBITION CELEBRATES THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NUT MUSEUM, WHICH OLD LYME ARTIST ELIZABETH TASHJIAN OPENED IN THE GROUND FLOOR OF HER HOME IN APRIL 1972. THE BENTON WILL FEATURE A RECREATION OF THE NUT MUSEUM’S MAIN EXHIBIT SPACE, A RESTROSPECTIVE OF MISS TASHJIAN’S APPEARANCES ON LATE-NIGHT TELEVISION, AS WELL AS HER NUT-THEMED PAINTINGS AND SCULPTURES, AND HER COLLECTION OF NUTS.”

Dr. Amanda Douberley

“The exhibition touches on cabinets of curiosity and the experience of wonder; conversations around outsider art; celebrity, notoriety, and mental health; historic preservation and the value of local history; and the plight of the elderly,” Douberley said. “Guest curator Christopher Steiner, a professor of art history at Connecticut College, will give a virtual gallery talk about the exhibition on February 17. We’re also screening a documentary about the Nut Museum on March 1.” 

One exhibition that will be continuing this spring is the Benton’s Facing History: Social Commentary in Contemporary American Art.  

“The exhibition presents work by artists who confront the legacies of past injustices and draw attention to difficult aspects of American history and culture.” Douberley said. “We have a faculty dialogue on February 8 with Heather Elliott-Famularo and Kelly Dennis from UConn’s Department of Digital Media & Design. The conversation will focus on work in the exhibition by the Guerrilla Girls, a feminist art collective.” 

This is just a small taste of what lies ahead for the Benton; there are countless initiatives and events that will be run through the museum this semester. 

“Students can get involved by attending any of our free public programs, joining our membership program, visiting the museum (admission is free), or working here,” Douberley said. “The museum hosts First Thursday each month with pet therapy dogs, a live DJ set from WHUS, open mic in the Beanery Café, and a different craft. In February we’ll have everything you need for DIY valentines from 4:30-7:00pm. Students can also sign up for our membership program, which includes two new art stickers every semester. You’ll learn more about events like First Thursday and our free online drawing workshop on February 10. Our galleries are a great place to relax anytime with friends or solo. We also offer for-credit internships and paid positions in Visitor Services and Graphic Design.” 

For further information, visit the Benton’s website at https://benton.uconn.edu/ and visit the museum at 245 Glenbrook Road.  

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