It’s not every day that students get to rub elbows with a bona fide rock star. But for a handful of Yalies involved in the arts, that’s exactly what happened at a luncheon in the School of Art with visiting singer-songwriter Patti Smith last Thursday.
Smith, a singer, poet, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, paid a visit to campus on Wednesday and Thursday for a film screening of a documentary on her life, “Patti Smith: Dream of Life,” and a reading of her recently-released autobiography, “Just Kids.” Both events were sponsored by the Whitney Humanities Center. In between these sold-out events, Smith joined roughly 16 undergraduate and graduate students involved in different areas of the arts at Yale for an invitation-only lunch on Thursday to answer questions and speak about her developing aesthetic as an artist, Sarah Matthes ’13, who attended the lunch, said.
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Matthes, who said she was recommended for the lunch by her faculty advisor, noted the range of artistic involvement represented by the students at the lunch — sculptors, experimental musicians, visual artists, and writers — was appropriate given Smith’s own involvement in a variety of media. The event provided students an opportunity to personally engage with a celebrated artist in an intimate setting, Matthes said.
“She really did address us personally,” she said. “To me, she’s a rock star and she acknowledged me.”
Samuel Messer, the associate dean of the School of Art, said the visual interest of the gallery on 32 Edgewood Ave., which is currently home to a sculpture installation by Nancy Lupo ART ’11, made it the perfect location for the lunch. Smith and guests sat on Lupo’s sculptures, which were set up for an academic critique on Monday. The pieces hover somewhere between being furniture and sculptures, Lupo said, which added to the arts-focused atmosphere of the luncheon.
Sprawled out across the gallery space with ample seating room, the sculptures created an environment for a larger conversation, Messer said. Typical lunches only allow one or two people to sit next to the visitor and engage with him or her, he noted.
Yale College Dean of the Arts Susan Cahan, who was also in attendance at the lunch, said the participants seemed to enjoy the setting. Though “zany” in appearance, the seating was comfortable and created an environment that matched the artistic tone of the lunch, she said.
During her roughly 40-year career, Smith has collaborated with Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and the band R.E.M.