To everyone in Oberlin, you have exactly 12 days left to visit the Allen Art Museum before they close for a 16-month renovation. To everyone visiting Oberlin within the next year and a half, I'm sorry that the Allen won't be able to be a part of your visit and college experience. It will be sorely missed in the coming months.
I first visited the Allen within the first few weeks of my freshman year, and when looking for a Winter Term project a few months later, I chose the docent training program at the Allen, taught by the also new-to-Oberlin-that-year curator of museum education, Jason Trimmer. Together, along with my classmates, we learned about the museum, the collection, and the staff, as well as learning to give tours and talk about select pieces on display. As a college museum, it is ranked in the same sentence as Harvard and Yale, with an extensive collection whose pieces are frequently featured in other nationally acclaimed museums.
Part of the docent program is a continual commitment to the museum once training is complete... not a problem. Dozens of tours, community days, lectures, and object talks happen throughout the semester, keeping docents active, the museum thriving, and the discussion surrounding these old pieces alive.
One of the newly introduced activities at the museum is Allen After Hours. One night a semester, the museum is open in the evening, specifically catering to students so they can visit the collection during hours that suit their schedule a little better. There's food, door prizes, and newly introduced audio tours, coordinated by Alex Michel '09. This year's fun activities also included a facial hair scavenger hunt, as students wandered around the museum trying to find the pieces that contained the cropped mustaches and beards on the worksheets. Past After Hours also included visiting installation artists, live music, and outdoor activities.
Currently, there are three Oberlin student-curated exhibits at the Allen, an astronomy and imagination exhibition called Starry Dome, curated by Anna-Claire Stinebring '09, an African sculpture exhibit called Engaging Spirits, Empowering Man, curated by Mara Spece '10, and an incredible drawing exhibition of pieces featuring several alumni artists called Out of Line, co-curated by Andria Derstine and Franny Brock '09. Students trickled in, and then flooded into the museum, to see these exhibitions and other pieces in the permanent collection.
I photograph at the Allen regularly, and this time, the photos were also featured in the Source, the campus email newsletter keeping students and faculty up to date on things happening around the college and community.
That painting in the background is one of my favorites, Portrait of Eleanor, Lady Wigram by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
The Allen recently added audio tours to their educational offerings.
St. Sebastian Tended by Irene is always a popular piece.
That's what I like to see, starting art appreciation at a young age.
Karl, you have good taste in art. I love the St. Sebastian, too.
With the museum's closing in a few short weeks, the museum is already looking into alternative artistic options to continue sharing art with the college and community. A series of workshops is planned, and the art rental will still continue (though in a different location). And good news! A selection of paintings from the Allen will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City starting this coming March.
Students, if you have a little bit of time in between studying for finals, or need a break when all your papers are done, spend a little time at the Allen. And then come back in a year and a half when it'll be shiny and new again.