While artistic ability isn’t for everyone, it won’t stop you from appreciating art. The High Museum of Art gave college students the opportunity to do just that on Saturday, Feb. 21 at the museum’s College Night.

Not only were the Museum’s galleries open to explore, but the evening event included dance performances, live music and a scavenger hunt.

The event also allowed guests to explore “Imagining New Worlds,” a new, collaborative exhibition where Brooklyn artist José Parlá and Atlanta artist and Emory Graduate Institute for the Liberal Arts (IDA) doctoral student Fahamu Pecou respond to works by the Surrealist movement’s Wifredo Lam.

Since most visitors did not come until later in the night, arriving early allowed for exploration of the art exhibits without dealing with crowds. Since this was my first visit to the High Museum, there was a bit of pressure to visit all of the floors. However, I still wanted to catch all of the performances and to experience as many of the events of the night as possible.

Walking through the different floors before the performances began, it was satisfying as a first time visitor to be able to explore the wide variety of art. The museum showcased everything from Renaissance paintings to 19th and 20th century art. However, many of the college students seemed to enjoy the section with Modern Art, experimenting with the mirrors and taking photos in front of the artwork.

Aside from the art gallery, the event also included a hands-on project where guests could decorate matchboxes to bring home as keepsakes. Although not every person crowded around the small table could claim massive artistic ability, the activity motivated college-aged students to get their hands dirty, diving into a pile of beads, glitter and sharpies in a manner that felt reminiscent of the arts and crafts days of childhood. 

Another success was the photo booth, complete with strange props and a vibrant background. College Night also included stations for airbrush tattoos and temporary hair dye. While amusing, once completed, there was no need to return, allowing for the art in the museum and the performances to be the true focus of the night.

The student performances took place in an open area on the ground floor, visible from any level of the stairs leading up to the museum’s exhibition area. While it was nearly impossible to watch some of the performances from the higher levels without failing to see the intricacies of the group’s display (particularly the dance performances), some were quite easily appreciated from even the top floor, such as the live music performances.

Tekstyles, Georgia Institute of Technology’s breakdance group, showed off their physical abilities, demonstrating a wide range of dance styles, ranging from breakdance to popping to house. The group performed as a complete ensemble while also giving individual members moments to shine by themselves. While each member was a part of the group, it was clear that each one also had a personal style, adding a unique flair to his or her solo.

Another group from Georgia Tech, BuzzBeats, also drew plenty of applause from the audience. The beatboxing group opened with a fun freestyle, then extended an invitation to anyone in the audience who wanted to rap to come onstage and join the group.

Surprisingly, an enthusiastic volunteer jumped up immediately. Grabbing the microphone, he began to cover “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z. BuzzBeats joined in, even continuing the song after the volunteer left the stage. After a quick freestyle, the group ended with two covers: The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty.” The enthusiasm and talent of the group quickly had the audience smiling and nodding along.

The performances also included a fashion show that featured designers from colleges in and around the Atlanta area. All of the designers took their inspiration from the art at the High Museum. As someone who is very much unaware of the fashion world, it was satisfying to see the work that college students are creating today.

The last performance of the night was by Emory’s own hip-hop group, TrickaNomeTry. The all-male dance team elicited both applause and laughter from the audience, bringing comedy as well as talent.

While there were the formal, scheduled performances of the night, the most surprising and gratifying shows seemed to happen spontaneously. Those who performed were constantly breaking out their dance moves and drawing the attention of those nearby. Though they were not officially performing, the dancers seemed to be having just as much fun, showing off and teaching those from other schools. Perhaps these were truly the best performances of the night: impromptu, entertaining and organic.

Although the formal performances were incredibly enjoyable, it left little time for those who watched to continue to tour the museum, forcing guests to rush through any unexplored exhibitions. While I also felt the pressure to see every part of the museum despite the small amount of time left at the end of night, for a first visit to the High Museum, College Night seemed to introduce students to the museum in a new and interesting way — involving those who may not have visited outside of the event and creating an incredibly satisfying experience for all. 

– By Julia Munslow, Staff Writer