by J.T. Buchheit
The Night at the Nelson aims to expand the horizons of students and faculty alike with displays of artwork at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The event, which will be taking place for the 19th consecutive year, will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 15.
“The Night at the Nelson is … where one faculty member chooses an artwork at the Nelson-Atkins that they’re interested in speaking about a little bit as it relates to their own discipline,” said Allison Smith, associate professor of art history. “They speak for about 15 minutes, and then the participants have about 10 minutes to move to another work of art, so you get to hear three different presenters speak about three different works of art.”
Humanities professor Timothy Hoare is a frequent speaker at the event. He enjoys having the ability to discuss multiple works of art, even if he has talked about the same artwork in the past.
“It’s good for me just to be able to broaden my experience, to be able to talk about different works of art that I don’t see all the time,” said Hoare. “Some of them I repeat over the years, but it’s a challenge to me to be able to talk about that in terms of its history and its meaning and its significance and all of that. … It’s fun to do that. I enjoy speaking in front of people, especially about things that I enjoy talking about.”
Humanities lab aide Rachel DiCamillo is the organizer of this year’s event. She will also be presenting a bust of the Roman emperor Hadrian. DiCamillo is excited about the opportunities she will receive at the event.
“It gives me an opportunity to connect with students outside the normal classroom at Johnson County Community College,” she said.
The goal of the Night at the Nelson is to help students appreciate the world of art. Although many students in the art history department attend, it is open to anybody who wishes to gain a wider appreciation of art.
“This is art — it should be a part of their lives,” said Hoare. “It’s not irrelevant. I teach in humanities, and art is part of what makes people human. Math and science are very important, but it’s also important to have exposure to these other things.”
Many students have been to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art before, but often their only exposure to it was during an elementary school field trip. Hoare said seeing it when one is older can help them appreciate art in a new way.
“[I want] people to rediscover this place that has all this stuff in it so that hopefully they’ll go back on their own and look at this stuff, because it’s a huge, huge place, and to see it in a new light,” Hoare said. “Seeing it as a third-grader is a whole different thing than seeing it when you’re 19, 20 years old.”
Along with being able to see the artwork in ways they may not have seen it before, students and faculty also get the benefit of learning more about the artwork than they did when they were younger.
“This gives JCCC students an opportunity to go to the Nelson and not just wander through the halls not knowing what the artwork is about or why it’s important,” said Smith. “It gives them an opportunity to go with their fellow students and professors in a fun social environment and learn about the artwork that’s in the museum and learn why the Nelson-Atkins is one of the great museums in the United States.”
While the event hasn’t had many changes over the years, Hoare acknowledged that it has grown substantially since its fledgling first years, receiving many visitors from areas outside the art history department.
“I would say that it’s grown,” said Hoare. “We get more faculty participation, more diverse participation in it. Not just the arts and humanities people, but also those from other departments, because they hear about it and word travels.”
Even though Hoare has been a part of Night at the Nelson since its second year, he has not lost his passion for presenting.
“I enjoy my work,” he said. “I enjoy teaching, I enjoy the subject matter, I enjoy sharing it, I enjoy seeing those lightbulbs go on in terms of what they get out of it. I’m not just in it for me — it’s for them too.”