Wednesday, October 25, 2023
As once-green leaves slowly give way to vibrant, warm hues and Autumn further takes its claim upon Hamilton’s campus, the Wellin Museum undergoes a similar shift. Bare walls are adorned with artwork, empty drawers filled with photographs, and, shortly thereafter, Rhona Bitner’s Resound, the Wellin’s latest exhibition, opens its doors to the public.
Since the performance-centric photography exhibition opened in early September, the Wellin has hosted several events, ranging from the beautiful chaos that is Wellin Kids to the slow, calming rhythm of art yoga. In the last month alone, visitors, students, and staff alike have bore witness to and participated in Resound’s opening reception, Wellin open studio, an art walk for Latine Heritage Month, and numerous class visits. As a student docent, I’m often asked to prepare for and work at these events.
The museum hosts such a diverse array of events because, “as a campus art museum, Wellin is always thinking about how to involve students and faculty in the programs that are offered… [these] programs are designed to engage many people and interests,” remarks Fiona Bristol ‘25, adding that “the museum is also a space for the wider community as well, so there are also programs across age groups.” This variety presents opportunities for docents to engage in education and engagement. While this dance between class visits, events, and workshops can become busy, “it’s important to facilitate activities that bridge the connection between life and art,” Taylor Scatliffe ‘25 says. “We really want this museum to be a space in which people can learn and build their relationship with art to make it more accessible.”
I’ve personally had the pleasure of working with both specific class visits and more general events open to the public, like art yoga. While class visits are certainly more structured to incorporate contemporary art relevant to class curricula, I’ve found that the format isn’t what makes each experience at the Wellin distinct. A child-centric event is different from events made for adults for the same reason that a docent-led tour for a creative writing class is so distinct from a tour tailored to a women and gender studies class. These events are so disparate not only because of the material we as docents choose to highlight, but also–chiefly–because of the lens through which these visitors view the work, which is inherently influenced by their lived experiences.
While I truly enjoy working at a museum that is so interested in community involvement, perhaps selfishly, what I love most about these events is having the opportunity to talk to people that see the world differently than I do. Each time I speak to a new visitor, whether it’s a five-year-old or a college student, I relearn how to see artwork.
Despite the multitude of events that have already taken place at the Wellin this semester, there are many still in the works that docents and staff alike are looking forward to hosting. Bristol expressed enthusiasm for future art yoga sessions as well as hosting more K-12 groups, while Scatliffe mentioned her excitement about HalloWellin, an upcoming costume event featuring Band Club members set to take place on October 26th.