Wellin Museum of Art

On October 28th, the entire eighth grade class took a trip to the Wellin Museum of Art on the Hamilton College campus. We were given one hour to roam all open wings of the building and each select one piece of art which we found particularly inspiring. Eventually, we would construct an essay focused on the intent of our chosen piece, which could be anything on display, from ancient Greek sculptures to contemporary short films. That was the plan, and, at the very least, what I expected from the field trip. Oh, I was in for much more than an assignment.

Jacket zipped and camera in tow, I viewed the strikingly northern looking Hamilton campus from the back of a school bus. Having spent most of my years living in tornado alley and the urban flatness of Chicago land, I took this in with a certain appreciation for oak trees and worn stone paths. Once inside the museum, this warm comfort manifested itself into an undeniable curiosity. The entire interior was clear Italian glass as far as the eye could see, displaying creations of all kinds by the hundreds. Once we were free to roam, I made my way past swarms of my no doubt enthusiastic classmates to a room full of photographs. After all, photography was something I already knew would inspire me. Well, not in this case. I must have made my way around the gallery about five times before I had to conclude that I just didn’t connect to any of them enough to make a final decision. Though a bit discouraged, I followed a friend into what one might call a miscellaneous gallery. Here I was surrounded by excited chatter, friendly docents, and art for every taste. It didn’t take long for me to find it- a collection of photos of venues that hosted the miraculous story of American music within the past 100 years. Each told a story undoubtedly worth telling, from a blues recording studio (that had seen the likes of Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters) to the birthplace of the British Invasion in America.

I found these undeniably inspiring, but came to a screeching halt when I reached the last photo in the collection. This was a photograph of a somewhat dingy excuse for an auditorium illuminated beautifully with stage lights, clearly alive with the ghosts of its past. This was St. Andrews Hall, a music venue in Detroit, Michigan. Along with hosting breakthrough artists and bands through the 80’s and 90’s, it got its start as home to what is referred to as the 80’s underground movement (introducing the public to bands such as Husker Du and The Replacements). I found myself staring at this one depiction of the hall, wondering about the lives of all who had been a part of it, and the music that had brought them together. That’s precisely when it hit me- I was experiencing a very real connection to this simple image of a stage due to something I hold very dear, the music of St. Andrews Hall. Needless to say, this was my pick.

The photograph itself was beautiful, but what it entailed meant so much more- at least to me. I began noticing that all around, people were experiencing their own connections to pieces I hadn’t even given a second look. It became obvious to me that these different connections were made possible by the fact that we are all unmistakably unique. We are what make art, well, art. With the diversity of our cultures, experiences, interests, and hearts as individuals, we are all capable of seeing art, or anything for that matter, in different ways. It’s part of what makes us the complex human beings we are.

Once back on the bus, I knew two things for sure: We were all undoubtedly fortunate to have been able to visit Wellin and experience all it had to offer (including a lesson about the wonder of art and perception), and that I was really excited to write that essay.