Jessica Smolinski

The Yale Gospel Choir sang to a standing audience in the Yale University Art Gallery earlier this month.

This performance — which took place on Nov. 7 — was part of Gallery+, a series of collaborations between the YUAG and various campus groups. These performances, which occur twice every semester, invite students to the YUAG’s collections.

“With Gallery+, the gallery space is transformed,” said Grace Wynter ’20, a member of the YUAG’s Programs Advisory Committee. “Suddenly there’s music and life and people who can interact with the art in different ways and expand their ideas of the pieces.”

At Thursday’s performance, the YGC sang “The Storm is Passing Over,” “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “Better is One Day,” “Marvelous Things,” “Days of Elijah,” “Total Praise” and “I Shall Wear a Crown.”

Anna Baker ’22, a YGC member, said it was fun to be in a space with all the art. Baker noted that because the choir wasn’t standing together, their sound “blended in the air.”

Molleen Theodore, who is the associate curator of programs at the YUAG, described the event as an opportunity for the choir to think about singing in a different space and interact with works of art. The gallery space modified the performance because the audience members were encouraged to walk around the art and performers simultaneously.

The YUAG began the Gallery+ initiative 10 years ago. Matthew Suttor, Yale School of Drama professor and director of Beechman Center for Theatrical Sound and Music, said that 12 years ago, the YUAG asked him to create a performative installation with his students at the gallery. Suttor’s installation eventually led the YUAG to continue programming of this kind.

The collaborations with campus student groups usually take place in the form of a “performance based activity,” Wynter said. These selections are often made by the Programs Advisory Committee, which is comprised of undergraduates, graduate students and program fellows at the YUAG. Yet Theodore said that she also encourages interested student groups to reach out to her.

“I am really interested in finding a place where student interest in the gallery’s collection and work are putting on view come together,” Theodore said. “Student groups on campus can provide a critical framework for exhibitions through their voices and perspectives.”

Past Gallery+ events include Gallery+The Control Group, which featured the experimental theatre group of the same name, and Gallery+Blue.

Theodore said that what students perform often links to their cocurricular activities or curricular work, but “with a twist.”

Suttor’s students perform a Gallery+Drama event every spring semester. Suttor said that when the YUAG initiated Gallery+, he introduced a directors and designers workshop, which brings together first- and second-year light and sound designers, directors and playwrights. For the course’s final project, students work to create an installation for the YUAG. Suttor said that they can choose to respond to either the museum’s artwork or architectural design.

“I think everybody in the gallery enjoys a new take, from the curators to security to registrars and art handlers,” Suttor said. “They see the objects every day, but we’re looking at them with fresh eyes and reinterpreting the space.”

Wynter said that students are often too busy to attend all the interesting events taking place on campus. She said that Gallery+ helps bring together a lot of people, particularly undergraduates, who might not visit the YUAG otherwise.

Theodore described the series of events as an opportunity for Yale students, faculty and staff to enjoy dialogue with the New Haven community.

For Gallery+ events next semester, Theodore plans to invite a native curator to work with native students and think about indigenizing the museum. She also hopes to have a Gallery+ memorial where a Directed Studies student will read from a new translation of “The Iliad.”

Freya Savla | freya.savla@yale.edu