Fine art and live music draw crowds to BYU’s Museum of Art for “Art After Dark” on several nights during fall and winter semesters. The event proves high art doesn’t necessarily mean highbrow.
The museum opens its doors for a Friday night once a month from 7 to 10 p.m. The event theme always comes from an exhibit, and the museum invites a live music act and provides refreshments that fit the theme. The event allows people to socialize, see art up close and have a good time.
Art After Dark dates back several years, but attendance has recently increased enormously. The September event pushed 2,000 people, impressive for an on-campus non-sport event taking place on a Friday night.
Museum educator Philipp Malzl said Art After Dark has been effective at accomplishing its purpose. The MOA hired an independent group to take surveys at the September event, to measure how visitors were reacting. Most people said they were at the event for the art, entered multiple galleries and spent considerable time doing the activities.
Impressively, every single person surveyed said they would recommend the event to friends, Malzl said.
Malzl said these results were encouraging, especially because of the museum’s focus demographic of the student body.
“We just want people who are experiencing higher education to incorporate cultural events into their lives,” Malzl said. “I think people are always surprised at what an enriching, exciting and happening place this is.”
MOA marketing and PR manager Kylie Brooks said Art After Dark is a good channel for spreading awareness about the museum and advancing community outreach.
“We as a museum are open because we want you to be in here with us,” Brooks said. “The whole museum plan is to introduce people to artwork, and Art After Dark provides the first step in doing that.”
Brooks said art museums often seem inaccessible to people who aren’t well acquainted with fine art. The fun atmosphere at Art After Dark provides the impetus needed to get people in the door, and resources like printed gallery guides dissipate much of the intimidation.
Art After Dark helps students discover art on a deeper level, Brooks said.
“If you aren’t a humanities major, it can sometimes feel awkward or strange just walking into an art museum without anything to do,” Brooks said. “This is a way to take that away, make it fun.”
Past events have included jazz ensembles, spontaneous dancing in the gallery and visits from living artists to talk about their work. Guests are free to socialize, explore all five galleries and come and go as they please.
Free gallery guides provide an objective and help start conversations at the featured exhibit. Questions on the guide invite people to find works they connect with by reminding them of childhood, instilling hope, etc.
Last week’s Art After Dark, on Oct. 21, featured contemporary exhibit “Rebecca Campbell: The Potato Eaters.” Artist Campbell attended the event and talked about her exhibit, which showcased nostalgic themes from her childhood. Oskar and Julia, an acoustic duo from Salt Lake, performed live music.
Madeline Duffy, a student employee who helps with museum events, said her favorite part about Art After Dark is the “electric atmosphere.” She said visitors are always amazed by the delicious food and the “Plexus no. 29” rainbow installation, and they often debate which piece of art they’d most like to take home.
Duffy’s advice to students is to have fun at Art After Dark with a date or friends, then come back later to absorb the art. It’s often difficult to read labels and spend time on each piece when the crowd is so large, Duffy said.
Malzl said coming back later doesn’t seem to be a problem for most Art After Dark guests.
“I think everyone who gives it a try and comes will go away saying ‘I have to come back. This was amazing event’,” Malzl said.
The next Art After Dark event will take place on Friday, Nov. 11, from 7-10 p.m.