Thursday March 12th saw the official opening of The Crown: Contemporary Construction of Self in America by artist Shani Peters at the Institute for the Humanities. An event was held to celebrate the opening, and was attended by the artist, her family, University of Michigan faculty and staff, and several students. For many of the students, myself included, this was the first official art opening we have had the opportunity to attend. Additionally, many of us hope to pursue a career in the museum or art world following our time at the University of Michigan, so with this in mind, we arrived at the Institute eager to observe and participate.
Having spent several weeks prior to the opening learning about the plans for Peters’ exhibition, I was rather excited to see one half of the finished product (the other opens March 18th in GalleryDAAS). However, because I am a college student who had come directly to the event following five hours of class, I walked straight past the entrance to the exhibit, to the table of food in the center of the room. Many of my peers seemed to have the same idea, and we congregated in celebration of our good fortune. That is something no one tells you about art openings, there will be free snacks, and in my four years at the University of Michigan, I have yet to meet a student who does not enjoy free snacks.
Once our initial joy regarding the food I did not have to prepare myself passed, I entered the exhibition space to see the show I had been hearing about for so long. Inside the dark room, I found my place against the back wall, where most of the visitors seemed to feel most comfortable. As I looked around, I noticed most people had trouble restraining the urge to dance while the video Peters created to accompany the 1983 song The Crown, by Stevie Wonder and Gary Byrd. I almost hoped for the group to break free from societal constraints and join together in an impromptu dance party, but my own lack of dancing skills inhibited me from starting such a revolution.
The event concluded with the curator of the exhibition and the artist thanking everyone for attending, with brief mention of upcoming events associated with the multi-media project. Students eagerly scanned the food tables for scraps left behind, and finished conversations with grown up successful adults many had been too timid to approach earlier in the evening (though that may have just been me). I left the Thayer building with the deep feeling of satisfaction that can only occur when art, stimulating conversation and tiny hot dogs wrapped in puff pastry come together for a few precious hours.
I cannot wait to compare this opening with its counterpart at GalleryDAAS on March 18th and look forward to seeing how The Crown impacts the University of Michigan.
-Andréa Cara, Art History/History, AAS 458