More than 500 Harvard undergraduate and graduate students became the very first group to celebrate the launch of the new Harvard Art Museums, at a special event last week. The reinvigorated Calderwood Courtyard served as the stunning setting for toasts, dancing, and photos galore. Meanwhile, nearly every room in the museums was open and ready for exploration.
Many students expressed both awe and surprise upon entering the facility, which was expanded and renovated by architects Renzo Piano Building Workshop. “I’m astounded,” said Charlie Sorensen ’15. “The space is amazingly beautiful, and larger than I expected it to be. There’s an accessibility that comes across . . . it seems like such a welcoming environment for students.”
Free tickets for the event sold out in five hours. Once the museums’ doors opened at 8pm, students steadily streamed in from both public entrances, pinning on white paper bowties patterned with the museums logo. Guests were treated to an array of sips and small bites. The DJ duo AndrewAndrew spun in front of a projection screen that showed a blend of prerecorded video of the museums and live footage broadcast by artists E.S.P. TV.
Introduced by members of the Harvard Art Museums Student Board, Thomas W. Lentz, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums, and Rakesh Khurana, Dean of Harvard College, delivered opening remarks. Khurana expressed his hope that the museums would “play a critical and transformative role in the lives of our students,” and would enhance the college’s mission to promote creativity and openness to new experiences.
Lentz shared his view of the museums as a new tool for enhancing the Harvard experience. “Imagine this courtyard as a brand-new gathering space on campus,” he said. “All that we have done in this building is with you in mind.”
E.S.P. TV directed a trio of professional harpists to perform a new composition written for the occasion. They also collaborated with Professor Jill Johnson and students in the Harvard Dance Project to surprise the crowd with a dance performance inspired by the building.
The performance was a sneak peek of “Look Up,” a work the group planned to perform over the coming weekend. “The dance is centered on taking a break from your cell phone and just looking up,” said dancer Liza Batkin ’15. “In this space, it had particular resonance, because when you look up, you see this incredible architecture and the sky.”
During the night, students had the chance to explore the expanded galleries. In a modern and contemporary art gallery on Level 1, Anna Lea Albright ’17 lingered in front of Joan Miró’s Woman in the Night (1945). “I was in Mallorca [at the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró] this summer, and there’s such a rich collection there,” Albright said. “And here it’s equally rich. Between going to classes and our Houses, we can stop by one of the richest collections in the world.”
Analea Wang ’17 said she was impressed by the number of famous works and artists represented in the museums. “I know I’ll be coming back for sure. This is so alluring.”