Ephs at the Clark spurs student initiatives

On Sept. 10, Ephs at the Clark hosted its opening event, a back-to-school barbecue at the Stone Hill Lunder Center. The barbecue drew students from every class and major, mirroring the representation of the College’s student body that Ephs at the Clark hopes to achieve in its membership.

The Lunder Center is a conservation center that is just a short walk away from the Clark Art Institute itself. Tucked away in the mountains, the Center is currently home to the critically-acclaimed exhibition “As in Nature: Helen Frankenthaler Paintings.” Students attending the barbecue had exclusive access to view Frankenthaler’s work, a striking collection of impressionist landscapes that are still on exhibition in the Lunder Center.

Perry Weber ’19, president of Ephs at the Clark, described the process of getting the club off the ground this fall. “Ephs at the Clark has been a Clark-led initiative for the past several years,” she said. “I was hired by the Clark at the end of my freshman year not only to lead and improve the COWS [Clark Outreach to Williams Students] program, but also to create original programming that directly engages students with the Clark. However, I realized [that] one of the biggest problems with the existing program was that, even though I was creating all of these events, they truly weren’t student-run,” she said. “I proposed the idea of the club as a way to break away from the stigma that Ephs at the Clark is simply a Clark-led solicitation. Thankfully, right after the club was approved, my wonderful co-president Katie Priest [’18] began interning at the Clark with me, and we have been working on creating more events and recruiting since.”

The barbecue was the first event of the year hosted by Ephs at the Clark, and it seemed to fulfill the club’s intent of increasing student involvement and engagement. “One of our goals in the next year is to have programming that targets students who may not find a reason to come to the Clark otherwise. Katie and I did extensive survey research over the summer to discover what students truly like to do at the Clark universally,” Weber said. “Unsurprisingly, many students love to come to the patio by the reflecting pool to do homework, or simply walk up Stone Hill on a beautiful day. This has inspired us to create more outdoor programming that allows students to engage with the art and with nature.”

The Clark’s location relative to campus is not exactly central, and it can be hard for students not studying art or art history to truly get involved or to get to know the institution itself. Many students that attended the barbecue were unaware that the Lunder Center even existed, let alone that it was home to such impressive pieces of work. Ephs at the Clark’s mission is to acknowledge the Clark’s potential to educate and inspire, and to bridge any gaps that might exist between the College community and the Clark.

Ephs at the Clark plans to host numerous events this year, intended to help students get more involved and engaged with the Clark. For those who are more academically drawn, the club offers student-led gallery talks, at which students can both meet fellow classmates while increasing their knowledge of the world of art. Ephs at the Clark also plans to bring in speakers  to give talks on their specialties and to engage with students. One of the club’s primary goals is to connect students that are already involved with the art history department at the College with alumni and other figures who are currently working in the field, such as curators, researchers and scholars. For those students who are seeking something a little more casual, Ephs at the Clark also hosts yoga on the Clark patio, as well as Clark art trivia nights for all students.

Weber shared her vision for the club’s future moving forward. “As a junior, I plan on staying on this project for the next two years to hopefully watch Ephs at the Clark become a sustaining presence on campus,” she said. “I hope we gain future leadership that isn’t necessarily connected to the Clark through an internship or even an interest in art history, but rather a passion for connecting students with this incredibly underused resource just a five-minute walk away. Most importantly, we want to create really fun programs that students are excited about attending.”