I’m not sure how your Valentine’s Day turned out—sappy and loaded with Stevia, I hope. As I write this, mine doesn’t seem to be beginning so well. It’s 12:33 am Sunday morning, and I’m watching _Zombieland_ with my fourteen year-old sister. My roommates are currently stumbling around Atlantic City without me, beating up the beat, downing yayga bahms, and if there’s hope for romance in this world, tomorrow morning they’ll wake up next to cocktail waitresses a few years younger than their mothers. I received a wordless message from an old girlfriend, whom, coincidentally, I once dumped on Valentine’s Day. Don’t worry, though. She got me back like 50 Cent got back that guy who shot him nine times. Taking all this into account, I’m inclined to drop my pen and crawl into a steam vent somewhere (perhaps under Cap). Maybe I’ll crack open the bottle of Highland Park we’ve got on the shelf, steal my roommate’s flourless, gluten-free birthday cake, and consume some feelings.
There is something to this anti-Valentine’s Day fervor that seems to be going around. Last Thursday night, the Princeton University Art Museum held its first initiative to increase student interest: an event called _Failed Love_ that featured performances by students such as Ellen Adams, Cameron McLain, and Dean Wang, as well as local talent, including Sarah Donner. Drown your pain, reads the poster, in dark and twisty refreshments.
I was curious as to the Museum’s motives for increasing its profile on campus. To improve student life on campus? To promote art and culture? Noble causes, I suppose. After all, isn’t art supposed to be the cultural equivalent of your daily dose of fiber? Sophomore Ruthie Nachmany, who helped plan the event and serves on the Museum’s Student Advisory Board, provided some insight: “What I have understood from our meetings is that the museum feels like an underutilized resource on campus, as it is in the heart of campus, and yet not very many students go there. Sometimes students go to the museum for a course, but they would like more people to come visit on their own. Our goal is to build excitement around the museum in the student body, in the hope that this will make more people feel a sense of ownership and stake in the museum, and essentially help perpetuate this excitement and energy we are trying to establish. I think the museum is also probably thinking about its future—people are going to be less likely to provide endowment to the museum and donate works of art if they don’t have any memory of coming to the museum during their undergraduate years.” (Full disclosure: Ruthie Nachmany works on the junior Editorial Board of this paper.)
I showed up early, settled down in front of a giant painting of a big bearded dude and an eagle, and submerged my pain in some sparkling cider and good-ass cheese. The plan for the night consisted of a scavenger hunt, hourly raffled chocolate, and musical performances. There wasn’t much to complain about: free food, free music, paintings of a wan-faced Christ staring at me from one side and a defiant Socrates on the other. Students and townspeople filed in, got in line for chocolate and enjoyed themselves. While overall the performances were very good, especially Phyllis Heitjan’s, a night of acoustic music seems a lot better in conception than realization. There’s only so much one can do with a voice accompanied by a guitar; next time the Student Advisory Board might want to mix up genres.
Nachmany also mentioned a new initiative called “Late Thursdays,” where the museum is open until 10. “We really want student groups to plan events on Thursday nights in the museum. We had a Pub Night for the class of 2010 a little earlier this year, a holiday party for Butler College, and an event with the Chinese Student Association. Some upcoming events are a Quipfire show inspired by the pieces in the museum, a WPRB broadcast from the museum, and a Gala in the Spring, probably the weekend before Houseparties (and the weekend after Theses are due). That is going to be a really big and classy event, we are hoping, with champagne for over-21 students, music, etc.” While they’re luring us in with their sparkling grape juice and good-ass cheese, it’s the random painting you might happen upon, perhaps a creepy portrait of a duke, that’s likely to rattle around your brain for the rest of the day.
After all, art should make you feel something. One can be a thousand miles away from home and be brought back to a familiar place by a glimpse of a picture or a lyric of a song. I was recently in Buenos Aires doing thesis research and saw one of Warhol’s car crash silk-screens. The last time I’d seen one was two years ago at the Princeton University Art Museum, when the Warhol exhibit had been open. I’d gone with my girlfriend at the time, the same one who just sent me a wordless message, and we spent the day wandering around, completely oblivious to our surroundings apart from one another, inducing the people around us to vomit. I remember the headless dudes guarding the museum’s entrance, who like my short blonde beau, have been returned to a generous donors’ sculpture garden. It’s a bittersweet memory for obvious reasons, but one of my favorite from the last four years: looking at funny pictures of people, places, and things, weird, naked, and colorful, with a short blond girl who meant quite a lot to me at the time. Sometime during Failed Love, I realized I should have taken advantage of the Art Museum more than I have, a sentiment I heard repeated again and again throughout the night.
These events the Student Advisory Board are planning are just another perk of living in the Princeton Bubble. You shouldn’t overlook them; they’re fun and you just might someone you can reenact the first season of _The OC_ with. You might even be inspired by something you see. I’m fairly positive I’ll never make enough money to donate a sweet painting to the Art Museum, but I’m pretty sure I know some people I can pester.