This article is a transcript of Clara Ender's October 10th report on Talk of the Town.
If you’ve been missing your favorite museums since quarantine began, look no further than Cornell’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. The Johnson Museum has been known for its cutting-edge programming and thrilling exhibits ever since it was established in 1973. It’s been an important resource for Cornell students, who can take classes there, and learn about the more than 35,000 pieces on display.
Two clubs, the Johnson Museum Club, and Student Educators of Art and the Museum, known as SEAM, spread awareness of the museum on campus, and plan exciting educational opportunities for groups in Ithaca and beyond. However, when the museum, like the rest of campus, was forced to close in March, many in-person events were cancelled, making it difficult to plan for semesters ahead.
The museum remains closed to the public in light of social distancing restrictions, and to accommodate for our new virtual world, SEAM and the Museum Club are offering innovative, engaging programs for students to continue learning from what the Museum has to offer.
Right now, there are fifty pieces from the museum’s collection on display in the building’s lobby, but it’s not yet safe to give in-person tours of these works. To inspire art-lovers, the clubs put together a playlist of songs that remind them of these pieces of art. Featuring music from Mac Miller and the Beatles to Mendelssohn and David Bowie, the museum hopes that this playlist will help listeners consider how they can continue to think about art as a part of their daily lives. The playlist, called “SEAM and Museum Club Make Some Noise,” can be found on Spotify.
With classes and extracurricular activities taking place on Zoom, the museum also wants to give students a chance to unplug and get creative! To promote hands-on experience with the pieces on display, the museum will hold two “Take N Make” activities. Students can sign up on CampusGroups, and will pick up art kits from the museum on Wednesday and Thursday of next week. They’ll be given a link to a webinar, where a member of SEAM and the Museum Club will provide step-by-step instructions to complete the project using materials found in the kits.
The first webinar will be held on Saturday, October 17th from 1 to 2 PM. It is inspired by Otto Marseus Van Schrieck’s Still Life With Thistle, a Dutch oil painting created around 1670. Participants will need to gather foliage- things like fallen leaves or interesting flowers- and will make the tracings using watercolor paper, watercolor pencils, graphic pencils, and brushes that the museum will provide.
The second event, on Saturday, November 14th from 1 to 2 pm, is inspired by Ernestine, a plaster bust painted with acrylic from 1992, created by John Ahearn in collaboration with Rigoberto Torres. Participants will receive air dry clay, an acrylic paint set, and clay working tools to create sculptures of their very own. Both Take N Make events are open only to students at no cost, and more information can be found at cornell.campusgroups.com.
To get in the Halloween spirit, the museum clubs will also be sponsoring a tableau costume contest. A tableau is when models represent a scene from history, and in this case, contest participants will model or replicate famous pieces of art in the Johnson’s collection. Submissions will be open from October 22nd to October 30th, with results being announced on Halloween.
To keep up with the Johnson’s programming throughout this semester and beyond, anyone can check out emuseum.cornell.edu to explore the collections and learn more about specific pieces. Additionally, the museum’s student blog is home to write-ups on educational programming and behind-the-scenes looks at how the museum functions. Follow along at hfjmuseumstudentblog.wordpress.com for updates on playlists, Take N Make projects, the tableau contest, and more.