On the morning of Friday, Nov. 1, Mark Cowardin, fine art department chair and sculpture professor, Misha Kligman, assistant professor of fine art (painting and drawing) and 13 art students piled into two vans and drove 3 ½ hours south, to Bentonville, Arkansas, to see a world-class American art collection and museum.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is located on 120 acres laced with four miles of trails. The museum was designed by Moshe Safdie, the same architect who designed the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. The museum is known for their world-class collection of American art and the harmonious interfacing of art, architecture and nature.
Kira Auchenbach, sculpture student, discussed why she wanted to go on the trip.
“I just want more experience in the art world,” Auchenbach said. “I want to see all I can, experience all I can and get all the life experiences I can. I liked that the three main pillars of the museum were centered on architecture, nature and art. It was incredible, it was a lot to take in at one time….There were a lot of pieces that were really impactful.”
Cowardin said he and Kligman wanted students from various fine art, photography and film classes to get to know each other and have fun.
“We periodically take students to art venues outside of the school,” Kligman said. “We do that to expose the students to new work and ideas, experience art in person and to get to know the very diverse art scene in Kansas City and the region.”
Students arrived at the museum before noon. They explored the museum’s galleries and nature trails, met for lunch in the museum’s café, Eleven, then spent more time viewing the art. They finished off the trip with a visit to the acclaimed 21C Museum Hotel, ate dinner together and drove back to the college. Students were only responsible for paying for their food. Auchenbach said the conversation was lively on the long drive home as everyone was excited to share their experiences and realizations with one another.
“We have plans to take students on more field trips in the spring semester. We envision this happening regularly, where students get to see how art is made in the studios of artists and [how it] is exhibited in the world. After all, that’s what our students are trying to figure out for themselves how to do. Our job as artists, teachers or mentors is to get students excited about art and its possibilities, and to demythologize it to some degree,” Kligman said.
“We want to make the possibility of being an artist real for everybody who’s trying to become one. Our field trips are simply one of the ways we’re going about it. Each museum is, of course, very different. Each space is curated with a different vision in mind and a very particular mission. The Crystal Bridges has an expansive collection of modern art, as well as contemporary art that the students got a chance to experience.”
“I feel that field trips like these really helps to demystify the idea of going to museums and galleries. Experiencing inspiring works in inspiring places is exciting. Misha and I really want to share this,” Cowardin said. “There are also a number of other day trips that could happen if there are exciting exhibitions…places like Omaha, Des Moines. and St. Louis will likely have to be an overnight trip, which will come at a cost for students. But we are working on ways to make that happen.”
Story by Penny Thieme