The first-ever Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) Sweet ’N’ Greet Jamboree, organized by WCMA’s Public Programming Intern, Eve Streicker ’09, took place last Thursday to the satisfaction of students and faculty alike. Performances by campus groups and talented undergraduates accompanied with a hefty serving of chocolate and hot cider took place outside and inside the museum, creating a relaxed and inviting atmosphere and welcoming new students to the College’s art center in an engaging, entertaining style.
“The Sweet ’N’ Greet Jamboree was my first project of the year and it was designed to get students into gallery spaces to do something fun that they usually wouldn’t expect to do in a museum,” Streicker said. “WCMA is our museum and this event was meant to show students that WCMA is a usable, friendly and open place.”
The event began outside beneath the Ironic Columns with an ever-energetic performance by Sankofa. The acoustics of the space matched the rhythmic beats of the group and filled the empty spaces quickly taken up by stragglers. For several members of the team, it was their first show in front of an audience. The new recruits blended well with the older talent, and the dynamism of the three routines breathed some life into the chilled air of the stone patio.
The audience members were greeted with cupcakes and cider in the main foyer. Space was limited, and the slight attitude of push-and-shove generated an electricity reminiscent of an intimate concert hall. The Springstreeters’ next performance on the museum stairs brought applause from the spectators, and cheers replaced the harmonies that had just filled the hall as the first round of raffle ticket winners were announced.
This performance atmosphere might have seemed at odds with the usually quiet galleries, but instead it fit perfectly alongside the various collections as representative of the students’ own additions. There was even a brief moment of unplanned time later in the evening when an audience member spontaneously stood up and told a joke, and the usual whispers used by museum-goers were replaced with laughter.
The next performance occurred in a wing off the second floor. Allison Prevatt ’09 read an original spoken word piece entitled “Detergent” that described an encounter with a vet at a political rally. In keeping with the theme of the night, the reading was paired with one of the museum’s current showcases, Manifestos: American Dreams and Their Founding Documents. This marriage of style and presentation again emphasized the potential of collaboration between WCMA and the student population. As Lisa Corrin, the museum’s director, said in an address to the audience, “This is your museum – own it!”
The final performances, which took place in the rotunda, included several song selections from a cappella group Good Question. They were joined by two of the members of band MajorDomo, Andrew Dominitz ’11 and Jon Foster ’11, who performed several of their new songs. Acoustic entertainment was also provided by Eric Beam ’10 of the All-Acoustic Alliance, and Aroop Mukharji ’09 and Harris Paseltiner ’09. The variety of music livened the space, creating a synthesis between the classical formality of the gallery and the invitingly thought-provoking nature of the current exhibition, Emily Driscoll: Works, by Emily Driscoll ’05, who passed away last year.
Was the event a success? As Corrin put it, “This is the best party we’ve ever had.” She also invited the students to welcome WCMA into their daily lives as a great place to bring friends and take a break from the rigors of a tiring schedule. “There are always so many wonderful artists and parties, exhibitions and events. You really should check the Web site for campus activities, because we have so much going on all the time.” Corrin further emphasized the upcoming exhibition by Sol LeWitt, opening the weekend of Nov. 15, as an extraordinary event for both students and patrons of the art world.
WCMA’s central location is ideal for a place of community interaction, but the aura of “museum” as a somewhat inapproachable space on a day-to-day basis might be too pervasive. The course of the night, however, began to reveal the potential of a museum that is more than just an intellectual cacoon. This attempt to make WCMA more appealing to the student body effectively breached the stereotype of a removed and inaccessible gallery space, and the students were able to enjoy an inviting and relaxed evening that set a high standard for events to come.