Upon this semester’s return to campus, the most anticipated new buildings for most students were 2000 and 2150 Commonwealth Ave., or the Reservoir and St. Thomas More Apartments, the latest efforts made by Boston College to increase housing capacity. Less spoken about among students was the McMullen Museum of Art, which made its move to Brighton Campus. On the evening of September 9, however, it enjoyed a tremendous reception; BC students flocked to the museum in droves for its “Art After Dark” opening night, with many of them even dressing up for the occasion.
Spacious and vibrant, the McMullen Museum has come a long way since its days tucked away in the basement of Devlin Hall on the Chestnut Hill Campus. At the entrance of its new building, visitors were welcomed with a scavenger hunt list that prompted a search for particular manuscripts, paintings, and motifs scattered throughout the exhibition space. Upbeat music by BC’s Electronic State of Mind DJs permeated the gallery as students streamed from room to room, lingered around the exhibits, and weaved past each other on the stairs to explore each part of the museum. Many, if not a majority of students, conglomerated on the third-floor terrace overlooking a stunning sunset view looking over downtown Boston, the railing adorned with lights. Others on the terrace participated in activities like 3D book sculptures and notebook-making.
For its student night, the McMullen Museum featured Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections, a three-venue collaborative exhibition with Harvard University’s Houghton Library and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The exhibition, with over 150 manuscripts on display drawn from nineteen Boston-area institutions, will continue until December 11, 2016. In addition, the museum holds a myriad of permanent collections from Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
Beyond exhibits, Rachel Chamberlain, the museum’s passionate Education Outreach Specialist, aspires for the McMullen Museum to be a space for all students, regardless of their interest in art or museums. By including an assortment of games, arts and crafts, food, music, performances of student groups like the BC Dynamics, and ways to interact with the exhibition, the museum aims to offer a little something for everyone to enjoy.
“While the Beyond Words exhibition on display is certainly something we’d like to share and see enjoyed by the student body, we want to emphasize that the McMullen Museum is more than just the works of art exhibited within its walls,” said Chamberlain. “It’s a space for community building, networking, reflection, and kinetic discussion on campus.”
According to Eric Choi, MCAS ‘17, the McMullen Museum hit its mark with its opening night. “The museum really exceeded my expectations, in both scale and appearance,” says Choi. “More than that, I just found the whole event to be extremely well done. They did a great job maintaining a respectable space to enjoy the art while stimulating a lively environment. And as someone who enjoys museums, I appreciated that the McMullen made art and the enjoyment of viewing art so accessible for everyone.”
For Steven Gingras, an art history minor who works at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the appeal was conventional—but with a twist. “The new gallery is definitely really good,” said Gingras, MCAS ‘17. “There’s a lot more space than the old museum, which allows for bigger exhibitions.” He plans on revisiting the museum and hopes the new building will continue drawing more students in, as he enjoyed the energy present at the Art After Dark event. “People were excited about the opening; there was some interest in the art, but a lot of interest in the building.”
For others still, like Nikhil Kanitkar, CSOM ‘17, the museum opening presented itself as a chance for a lively social experience. “I think part of the draw was being able to spend time with friends in a new atmosphere,” said Kanitkar. As a Resident Assistant, he expressed a desire to use the museum as the venue for a floor event.
For those who are already waiting for more, there’s a lot to look forward to. The museum will be hosting a Trivia Night on its terrace at 6:30 p.m. on September 22. Then, on October 5, students can expect musical performances, including the classical/Brazilian jazz duo Michael James and Rogerio Dentello. Planned for the night of October 19th, in celebration of Halloween, the museum will try its hand at ghost tours, complete with cider and donuts for refreshments and activities like glass blowing, snow sculptures, and giant spin art. Outside of these events, Chamberlain is excited to see what engaging programs the 30 Student Ambassadors, who have been given free rein, will conjure up.
Chamberlain also extends the opportunity for creative appreciation of the McMullen Museum to everyone else, encouraging students and groups to shape their experience with the museum around their interests, be it for a club meeting, game night, or as a place of relaxation. With a final note of enthusiasm, Chamberlain extends the welcome to the BC community once more: “Our minds—and doors—are always open to any ideas the students might have.”