This fall, the class of 2017 became the first group of freshmen to arrive on campus to a newly renovated Yale University Art Gallery and a Yale Center for British Art that is undergoing refurbishment.
During the second annual Freshman Night of the Arts, hosted jointly by the YCBA and the YUAG last Friday night, first year students were given a glimpse of the museums’ new offerings, with introductions and tours led by each institution’s student guide groups. The art museum receptions were part of a larger roster of orientation arts events for freshmen. In the past, these events have been consolidated into larger art showcases spanning several hours, said Associate Dean for the Arts Susan Cahan. This year, the introductory activities — which total 92 programs on the online Calendar of Opening Days — were hosted individually to allow students to select and attend the ones which interested them the most.
The art gallery receptions, formerly a mandatory event for all first-year students, were made voluntary this year. Cahan explained that given the number of obligations most Yale students have, it no longer seemed reasonable to force them to participate. Still, nearly 400 students attended events hosted by the YCBA and the YUAG over the course of two hours.
“I have very little experience going to museums,” said Daniel Leibovic ’17, who visited the YCBA with his freshman counselor group. “So I was pleasantly surprised to see that we have this gem on campus, and very impressed by how fluent and insightful the guides were.”
Kate Ezra, the YUAG’s curator of education and academic affairs, said the goal of the Freshman Night of the Arts is to make students aware of the University’s collections and arts resources early on in their college careers.
“In the past, there would be a situation where a Yale student was in their senior year and had never gone to the galleries,” Ezra said. “Then they realize what a shame it is that they’ve spent four years at this institution with two world class art museums — ones that are pilgrimage sites for people who are knowledgeable and love art.”
The YCBA experienced a lower turnout, with 50 recorded visitors as of 8 p.m. compared to roughly 200 at the YUAG, gallery employees at both institutions said.
Due to ongoing conservation efforts, the center’s second and third floors were inaccessible, and freshmen were given tours of the permanent painting collection on the fourth floor. The YUAG was faced with a similar situation during last year’s event, when visitors were barred from Street Hall and had limited access to the Kahn building and the Swartwout building.
Employees from both museums said hosting the gallery receptions independent of other arts orientation events has had a positive impact on orientation programming.
“The calendar is a lot more comprehensive [now],” Cahan said. “Freshmen can choose which events they want to attend — logistically, it’s a dream come true.”
For those who were seeing the YUAG’s renovated spaces for the first time, the expansiveness of the facilities came as a surprise.
Daniel Hoogstraten ’17, a Chicago native, said he was surprised by the size of the collections, comparing them to those on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The YCBA’s conservation project will be completed in January.