Staff Editorial: Go to the Kemper Art Museum: Support the arts, it’s free

With the grand re-opening of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum Sept. 26, the museum has returned with double the amount of permanent art collections available for view. It’s never been so easy for Washington University students to access world-renowned exhibits and as students, we have the opportunity to explore Kemper’s members-only events and exhibition previews for free.

The renovation of Kemper includes reconfigured galleries and expanding space to make room for new commissions from artists such as Tomás Saraceno and Dan Graham. While the majority of the East End expansion has been focused on the engineering school, the Kemper Art Museum falls outside of this realm. We on the Editorial Board are glad to see more investment on behalf of the University into the arts rather than completely neglecting them in favor of other departments.

Kemper is an ideal place for networking between aspiring artists and professionals. At last week’s grand opening, globally recognized and celebrated Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei mingled with the Sam Fox undergraduates and spoke to local artists. Ai’s art is currently on display at the Kemper, however, the museum doesn’t solely display the art of professionals like Ai. It also showcases the artwork of Wash. U.’s own graduate students in an annual gallery. This bridges the gap between the university community and outside artists and creates an opportunity for students to form relationships with working professionals.

Even for those who are not in Sam Fox, there’s a lot to gain from attending art museums like the Kemper and the St. Louis Art Museum, which is just across the street in Forest Park. Not only can you increase your knowledge of the arts, but you can also engage with the St. Louis community at public programming events. Many of these programs are interdisciplinary, crossing lines into music, racial justice and other topics, engaging not just those interested in the arts, but broader audiences as well.

Such events include features like the “Collection Highlights Tour,” happening Oct. 5, and a lecture titled “Ai Weiwei: Between Mao and Warhol” Oct. 23. This is in conjunction with Weiwei’s “Bare Life” exhibit, and the discussion will include the hybridity of Weiwei’s contemporary art style with the techniques used in communist propaganda.

Supporting the arts is more important than most people realize. As research shows, it helps to improve academic performance, strengthen the economy and provide social impact to our local community by increasing civic engagement and social cohesion. Also, there’s more to engaging with the arts than staring at paintings–the Kemper consistently offers lectures, talks, films and tours for free. Upcoming exhibits like “Truth and Reckonings: The Art of Transformative and Racial Justice” coming to Kemper this spring highlight the effort to provide programming that is accessible and engaging for all audiences. Regardless of your knowledge or interest in the arts, Kemper’s interdisciplinary programming offers something for everyone.

In addition to these programs, the museum as a whole provides a stress-free zone to students regardless of their academic affiliation. The renovations include the addition of a coffee bar (coming soon), along with the Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Garden, which offers scenic outdoor seating, a perfect spot to take a break. This is another example of how the Kemper Art Museum provides benefits to all students, not just those who study art.

This academic year, grab a couple friends and go check out the new exhibits at the Kemper; you’re only here for four years, so take advantage of these opportunities while you can. Memberships and events are free to students, so what do you have to lose by just giving the Kemper a try?

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