“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
It’s true that looking at a piece of art, whether it’s a Renaissance work by Michele Tosini or a contemporary photograph by Steve McCurry, does allow us to see the world from a different perspective and remind us that there’s more to life than just our individual minutiae. Some people, however, reject the idea that a small town such as State College could possibly provide them with any true artistic enrichment.
To expand on Picasso’s quote, I say this: Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art provides the vehicle for a good scrubbing.
The museum has 11 galleries with artwork in an array of media and style. Most of the galleries have permanent collections, with the remainder comprising traveling exhibitions. Some of the permanent collections include 16th- to 18th-century Old Masters European works, Asian ceramics more than 2,000 years old, 20th-century modern sculptures and drawings, and 18th- and 19th-century American painters.
While most of us usually try to rush through all or most of the exhibits when going to a museum, I advise going back to the Palmer a few times, each time focusing on just a few galleries. Maps of all of the exhibits can be found on the Palmer website and at the museum.
Trying to absorb and digest any artwork with which you’re not familiar can be overwhelming, at times leaving you feeling as if you haven’t really learned anything; instead, you might find yourself just strolling from room to room, looking but not truly understanding what you’re seeing. For those who would like to be more than a mere observer, the Palmer offers help.
For example, to complement one of the their current exhibitions, “American Quilts from the Terasaki Collection,” the museum is hosting two workshops for adults — “Applique By Hand” at noon July 21, where participants will look at examples of appliqué in the quilt collection and then do the process themselves; and “Go Crazy for Quilting!” at noon Aug. 4, in which participants will see what are called “crazy quilts” in the collections and then sew their own single crazy quilt block.
To complement another of their exhibits, “Color My World: Color Photographs from the Permanent Collection,” one of the museum’s graduate assistants will give a gallery talk on Aug. 10.
The Palmer also hosts other types of events, for example, two jazz performances this summer, and will give tours every Saturday and Sunday through Aug. 19, led by docents who can help to educate and inform visitors on each of the exhibitions. If you’re more of a lone wolf, preferring a do-it-yourself tour, there are explanatory notes, some that go into great detail, beside each piece.
So even if you don’t know much — or anything — about art and would like to try something new, the museum staff does a wonderful job of helping you learn.
Sherry Coven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.