The Benton Museum held their monthly First Thursday event yesterday evening. With February beginning this week, the museum did not want to miss a moment to share their excitement for the quickly approaching Valentine’s Day holiday. The theme of this First Thursday was a collaboration between the Benton staff and the University of Connecticut’s own Club Swift. It was complete with heartwarming decorations, beautiful art, a fun card activity, hits by Taylor Swift and a rocking open mic.
I started off viewing the galleries, coming across one of their current exhibitions, “Encounters with the Collection: Celebrating Art by Women.” I had the chance to view a very profound piece titled “A World Made Flesh” (1994) by Lesley Dill. It powerfully conveys many of the thoughts and attitudes women have toward themselves as a result of mainstream society. Dill said the piece was inspired by the poem “A Word made Flesh is seldom,” by American poet Emily Dickinson. Its beauty lies in its literal depiction of phrases and words darkly painted on female bodies.
The next exhibit, which I hadn’t seen previously, was titled “Raid the Archive: Edwin Way Teale and New Works” which was composed of both historical artifacts and new pieces of art. I was particularly fascinated by the sculpture “Ribbon Map, The Anatomy of a Journey” (2022) by Hanieh Kashani. It was one long, but narrow, strand of paper composed of small photographs and old book pages. It was wrapped delicately around two metal beams and draped lower as the wrap continued through them, almost reminiscent of a human rib cage.
For some students, like sixth-semester economics major Yizhan Cai, it was the first First Thursday that they were attending. Cai was drawn to the event after seeing an ad for it on Instagram.
“I’m a person who is kind of interested in museums so after class I told my friend we would come here,” said Cai.
Cai’s friend, Tongxin Xie, an eighth-semester economics student with a minor in digital marketing, added that this was her first time at the Benton Museum and came only after Cai asked her to. The two seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves while viewing the exhibitions and making Valentine’s Day cards.
I then walked into the final exhibit, titled “Seeing Truth: Art, Science, Museums and Making Knowledge” which was also where the Valentine’s Day card making activity was held. Stickers, stamps, paper and glitter covered the mobbed tables as everyone rushed to make a beautifully personal Valentine. Some soft Taylor Swift in the background kept everyone laughing and singing along.
Before heading downstairs, a collection called “Silver Skeleton Series: Full Skeleton” by Valerie Hegarty caught my eye. These wonderfully creative objects made me smile with intrigue as it depicted many Victorian household items made of human bones.
There was also pet therapy — a collaboration with Student Health and Wellness — where they brought in an adorable Newfoundland. I didn’t quite get the chance to pet him due to his popularity, but he seemed to bring a lot of joy to many of the students there. He was nearly the size of the polar bear rug that was displayed on the far end of the exhibit. It was borrowed from UConn’s own department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, which they received from an illegal trophy hunter in the 1980s.
My night ended with talented students performing their hearts out at the open mic portion. A trio of friends performed a marvelous cover of Taylor Swift’s “Enchanted,” hitting their stride in the chorus with some of the audience members singing along with them.
They were followed up by Richmond Le, an eighth-semester healthcare management student who shocked the crowd with an acoustic version of “Welcome to New York” and was aptly met with thunderous applause. Le also had a nice lead up with the mic, talking about the immaculate vibes of the event and how happy everyone seemed to be there.