by Cory LeBihan
An article about the Benton Art Museum on the University of Connecticut Storrs campus.
News Story #2 Re-Write
Comfortably nestled in the heart of the University of Connecticut Storrs campus, The William Benton Museum of Art has transitioned from a series of art exhibitions to a display of culture.
“Usually, seniors come in here that have never been (to the museum),” said Associate Retail Manager, Samantha Smith, at the museum.
Many students have the goal of being in every building on campus before they graduate she said. These students leave the museum saying, “if we would have known it was like this, we would have been in when we were freshman,” Smith said.
The museum has a great history, said Smith. “I know the whole story of William Benton, but we don’t have time for that,” she said.
Prior to the existence of an on-campus art museum, the museum building was the campus’s main dining hall, The Beanery.
In 1966, UConn President, Homer Babbidge assembled many different pieces donated to the school and formed the William Benton Museum of Art, naming it after former university trustee and Connecticut senator, William Benton.
According to the official site, http://thebenton.org, since its establishment, the museum has ballooned to include more than 5,500 works of art, including pieces from famous painters Mary Cassatt and Rembrandt Peale.
As an example of the continuing change embraced by the Benton, the three main exhibits were closed off to visitors for the installation of a new HVAC system to help control humidity levels.
The Benton offers all kinds of displays, tours, exhibitions, workshops, and viewings said employee James Diederich.
“We hold museum tours for grammar school and middle school students,” said Smith.
There’s artwork throughout campus that most people don’t even notice or know anything about, and the Benton holds walking tours to view those pieces too, said Smith.
Every Friday, the Benton shows a documentary in its theater that usually focuses on a specific artist or photographer, said Diederich, pointing straight ahead down the hall. “Bring your lunch and enjoy the movie,” chimed in Smith.
After students return to campus for the spring semester, the Benton will be implementing a new program called the “out-of-the-box” program. Anyone who receives a camera for Christmas can come to the Benton and “un-box” them with a group of other people and learn a thing or two about photography, said Smith.
In the month of November alone, the Benton will run three separate drawing workshops, an Adobe Photoshop program, and a photography excursion around campus, on top of its monthly live musical performance in the Beanery Café.
“I saw the building while walking by, thought it was aesthetically pleasing and it sparked my interest,” said third-semester economics major Joshua Lucchina, who has spent time exploring the exhibits
In the average day, when the exhibitions are fully operational, the Benton and the Beanery welcome approximately 75 guests combined, predominantly students, said Smith.
The split is pretty even too. Some students come for the artwork and others for the coffee shop, she said.
The partnership between the Beanery and the Benton works out well, said Smith.
Usually, when people visit one of the two, they realize there’s an art museum or that there’s a café and then visit the other, said Smith.
The drawings and photographs that line the walls of the Beanery in a sine-like wave and the chatter of the customers melt together to create a warm atmosphere that exceeds the norm associated with art museums.
“I come here really often,” said fifth-semester ecology and evolutionary science and environmental studies major, Colin Carlson.
Carlson described the Benton with a focus on the Beanery café, saying “it was a great place to hang out, meet people, and just get away from stress.”
Like the art museum portion of the Benton, the Beanery also has undergone change.
The coffee shop used to be owned by dining services and was called Café Muse, said Carlson.
However, it recently came under private ownership and was named The Beanery in honor of the Storrs campus’ main dining hall more than seventy years ago.
“It’s the atmosphere,” said Carlson, describing the appeal of the William Benton art museum in his own words.
Lucchina summed up his experiences at the museum using the word, pleasant.
Looking out the large glass windows that line the William Benton Museum of Art you can see students scuttling to and from class and construction workers laboring on the new West Classroom Building, and it feels a world away.