Williams College Museum of Art: Music, art, eat in the museum
WILLIAMSTOWN - Hello, dear readers, and congratulations. You've survived Hurricane Sandy, made it through Halloween and are a day away from the end of the traditional work week.
Now, at the start of November, I offer you something to look forward to this month. The Williams College Museum of Art is piloting a new event this fall: "WCMA at Night."
When I first heard of it, I was reminded of the "Clark After Dark" series held a few years ago at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, just down the road from the WCMA.
Spending an evening at the museum, away from tour bus crowds and penciland- sketchbook toting students is a fabulous concept. Add food, drinks and dance music to the mix, and you've got a premium evening out.
The first WCMA at Night was Oct. 18. Others will be the third Thursday of most months.
WCMA at Night varies from Clark After Dark in a few ways. For one, it is earlier, from 5 to 9 p.m., versus the dance- until- midnight events at the Clark.
As with the galleries on any given day, admission to WCMA at Night is also free and open to the public - a perk that attracted some the college students there when I checked out the event with my lovely, talented, starving artist/musician- type friend Autumn, also a former Clark After Dark consort.
Both of us agreed that event gave WCMA a more attractive, livelier tone than it has in the daytime.
Staff donned red T-shirts and took on roles, from checking IDs to guarding art to talking with attendees about the exhibits and activities.
Whether you're a guy in skinny jeans, a girl in a hippie skirt or either in the standard black T-shirt and jeans, you'll fit in.
Clark After Dark often promoted costume- wearing in style with the night's theme, which brings me to some of the similarities.
WCMA at Night is also an all-ages affair, which attracted, families, current Ephs and 30-year-olds like us. It also has themes. October's was "Drawing on the Walls," inspired by the art of Sol LeWitt on view there.
After walking through the door that night, I couldn't help but notice the guy dressed in black. He was standing on a platform in the stairwell to the right of a giant LeWitt mural, his body centimeters away from the wall, head bobbing.
Turns out "the guy" is Tony Orrico, a contemporary visual artist/ performer /choreographer. He's known for making so-called "Penwald Drawings".
On this night, Orrico produced his work by facing the wall and rhythmically writhing his wrists while clutching a medium-thin rod of graphite in each hand. This produced Etch-a-Sketch-like scrawlings with bilateral symmetry.
As if in trance, he continued to do so for a total of four hours, methodically crouching only to change the graphite in the mechanical holder.
After Orrico- gazing for a bit, Autumn and I collected ourselves in the second floor galleries to check out three new-to-us exhibits: "Sol Le-Witt: The Well-Tempered Grid," " Laylah Ali: The Greenheads Series" and "Cosmologies."
There are 11 exhibitions currently on view, from special to rotating to permanent collections.
Around 7 p. m., the live entertainment began. A woman from CoDa ( Contemporary Dance Ensemble) dressed in a black-and-white striped dress, gave a solo performance. She looked as if she was a line striving to break free of her prescribed LeWittlike angles.
A few a cappella groups comprised of Williams students then performed a unique and beautiful range of music, from hymns to a Bon Iver cover tune to a piece accompanied by hand bells.
Afterward, Autumn and I retreated downstairs to grab some hard apple cider - choices of Magners Irish Cider, a few Angry Orchard varieties or a Woodchuck Hard Cider - and a snack.
I had my first Apple Barn cider doughnut. There was also an array of fruit skewers with grilled pineapple, chicken and shrimp skewers with various dipping sauces, raw cut vegetables and an assortment of cookies. We snacked and mingled for a bit, then returned upstairs around 8 to check out the deejays who had started.
DJ Elixer featuring DJ iamsam pumped out some techno, dub step and electronica in between the tall white columns supporting the dome of WCMA's rotunda.
Assistant Curator Miriam Stanton shared with us some great trivia about this space: It was the former Williams College main library.
The librarians' desk sat at the center, so they could keep watch on the collection at any angle.
Now, not only does it serve as a spacious gallery, but in watching the mostly Williams kids bust a move, it makes a great intimate dance hall as well.
Though we didn't try it, guests also had the opportunity to create art, from quickand- easy drawing games to mini- workshops with artists, and to vote on art banners, which you can check out by searching "WCMA at Night" at http://wcma.williams.edu.
After a second drink, a tour of the gift shop and the first floor gallery, Autumn and I each grabbed a doughnut for the road.
"That was really fun," said Autumn.
I couldn't agree more.
To reach Jenn Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org, or (413) 496-6239 On Twitter:@JennSmith_Ink