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Reflection: At Rutgers, art can be found anywhere

Art, like this painting from Francis Cruz, a Mason Gross School of the Arts senior, are all easily accessible through Rutgers' many different artistic opportunities. – Photo by Photo Courtesy of Rhea Swain

In my four years at Rutgers, I’ve written around 80 articles for Inside Beat, many of which have centered around pop culture, music and the arts. I’ve got to cover amazing events, of which the 2019 Young the Giant concert and the 2022 Angela Davis talk have been my favorites.

In critiquing movies and shows, I’ve had to adjust my glasses and get to typing like the fictional critic Anton Ego from Pixar’s iconic film “Ratatouille.” Looking back, I would probably make some amendments to my original opinions.

In retrospect, I disliked the 2021 “Dear Evan Hansen” film and could have been harsher in my review for it, and I actually now think the story of “Normal People” is more effective as a TV show after reevaluating my thoughts on Sally Rooney’s most popular book.

But rather than ruminating on regrets in this last article, I’d like to reflect on what’s been most meaningful in my time as a writer.

Given my love for art history, my favorite kinds of articles to write for The Daily Targum have been those that are centered around the dynamic visual arts scene on campus, particularly at the Zimmerli Art Museum on the College Avenue campus and more recently, at the Mason Gross School of the Arts.

Rutgers is perfectly situated between the artistic hubs of New York City and Philadelphia, but I don’t think you need to take an NJ Transit bus or train to seek out inspiration and experience great art.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time wandering through the Zimmerli’s galleries, awestruck by the diverse collections and learning something new every time I'm there.

Events led by curators, visiting artists and Rutgers faculty members across departments in the arts and humanities like SparkNights (formerly known as “Art After Hours” before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) era) have also been insightful and formative in the development of my art historical eye.

I’ve also dragged many of my friends not studying or involved in the arts who don’t find themselves on Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus very often to appreciate the museum’s many treasures.

When I speak to my STEM friends about the museum, I like to cite the 2019 “Dimensionism” exhibit as an example of where apparently separate fields of study can intersect quite beautifully.

The Paparazzi Cafe connecting the Zimmerli to Voorhees Hall always glows with the promise of freshly baked goods and fragrant coffee and is thus a great way to incentivize and coax people into accompanying me to the museum.

In the case of the Zimmerli, the year-long “Angela Davis — Seize The Time” exhibit really is the gift that keeps on giving. After multiple online and in-person discussions around sociopolitical movements and theories like abolition and feminism related to the show and the brilliant talk at Kirkpatrick Chapel in March, the Zimmerli is hosting another event titled “Walls/Gates/Bridges: An Anti-Carceral Gathering” on Saturday.

While this event may be scheduled during peak finals season for many, the free event features gallery tours and panel discussions on carceral justice in New Jersey and the U.S. at large, which will be valuable for anyone invested in antiracist and feminist activism.

Other events happening this month are the iconic “Study After Hours” event on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and two more SparkNights on Thursday and June 2. More details pertaining to these events can be found on the Zimmerli’s website.

Currently, there are a plethora of fascinating shows at the Zimmerli, including “Meet at the Fair: Universal Expositions in Paris” for fans of 19th and 20th-century European prints in the Volpe Gallery and a newly opened exhibition in the Lower Dodge Galleries: “Oleg Kudryashov: A Master of Printmaking” as well as the "Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union." These exhibits will be closing on July 31.

While the Zimmerli’s exhibitions and programming are instrumental in shaping how Rutgers students see art, I also want to draw attention to the amazing talent being cultivated at Mason Gross.

The generation of astute painters, photographers, sculptors, printmakers and more at Mason Gross are worth keeping an eye on. One can get a deeper look into their work by checking out the virtual gallery space where BFA and MFA thesis exhibitions past and present can be readily accessed.

I had the chance to head over to the Mason Gross Galleries to catch the “I Know A Place” BFA thesis exhibition in person before it closed in early April. I found out about the show through its Instagram page, as I've had art history classes with some of the exhibiting artists and was excited to see the diverse group of artworks in dialogue with each other in a physical gallery space.

The event featured the delectable culinary creations by Frances Cruz, a Mason Gross School of the Arts senior as well as the immersive and serene domestic space designed by Chuan Nitta, also a Mason Gross senior.

Also present was the politically resonant works of Konstantin Pribylov, a Mason Gross senior. Along with the stunning explorations of her inner child from Doris Doku, a Mason Gross junior. “I Know A Place” was an engaging exhibition that seamlessly brought together artists with different creative pursuits and intellectual trajectories.

For the sake of brevity, I've only mentioned a few names above but highly encourage you to individually sift through the virtual galleries and find your favorite artists and artworks.

There's so much talent being nurtured right home at Rutgers, and art is everywhere, all you have to do is look for it. For instance, you should stop and stare at the fascinating public sculpture on four Rutgers campuses between classes or on mental health walks. My personal favorite is Melvin Edwards’s “Education Is an Open Book” (1987) in front of the James Dickson Carr Library on Livingston campus.

The next time you’re headed to Mabel Smith Douglass Library, spend some time at the entrance to look through the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series Galleries. This exhibition space is currently housing a show of community-focused art projects by the Art as Activism House of the Douglass Residential College’s Global Village Learning Communities.

Additionally, the Mabel Smith Douglass Library also displays art in its main atrium by the entrance. Just last week, I was able to see works by the evocative and sociopolitically salient works of Laura Gonzales Fernandez, a Mason Gross alumnus and Anisha Thind, a Mason Gross senior, on the atrium walls, focusing on migration and displacement in Colombia and 2020 farmers’ protests in India, respectively.

The Art Library on the College Avenue campus also acts as an art gallery at times. Most recently, it housed an exhibit titled “Take It With You” by Lauren Krasnoff, a Mason Gross senior, and Serafina Kennedy, a Mason Gross junior, that focused on the intimate medium of the zine.

My parting words as a contributing writer for the Targum are to take advantage of every resource, opportunity and tidbit of knowledge available on campus.

Even if you aren’t a student of the arts and humanities, take classes in fields that are unfamiliar to you, support student artists in their endeavors by following them on Instagram or buying from small businesses they may run and visit the Zimmerli as often as you can. You'll probably be a happier and more culturally conscious and visually literate person for it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and anything else I’ve written in the past four years. Keep looking for what makes Rutgers beautiful.


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