Spotlights illuminated the double decker auditorium on Thursday night, each purposefully pointing toward either a sculpture or a painting. A crowd filters in, slowly but surely.
An eclectic group of students wanders about the collection of oil works, and abstraction in the basement of the UNH’s Paul Creative Arts Center (PCAC), while others find seats and murmur over the coffee and cookies provided.
After undergoing a month-long renovation period, which included the installation of a new elevator, the Museum of Art at the PCAC put on its annual “LiveARTS!” open mic event on Thursday, Feb. 16, in conjunction with the “Momentum: Works by the University’s Art and Art History Department Faculty” and “Closer Readings: New Hampshire Writers Respond to Art” exhibits.
The open mic showcase featured local musicians and poets, along with a collection of visual art. Many paintings displayed in the exhibits have pieces of creative writing by UNH English faculty alongside their descriptions and history. The program encourages a blend of different creative forms.
A pile of amplifiers replaced the need of a stage for the performers. Jack Seperack and Jeff Wilson, UNH students and members of the band Dogs who Know They’re Dogs, fiddled with their equipment to sound check the hollow room that was filled with bouncing echoes of tuning instruments.
“We played here last year, it sounds great down there, we’ve been excited to do it again ever since,” said Seperack, a bongo player and business major.
The room was quiet, but not in an uncomfortable way. The sound of tuning instruments rang between a minimalistic exhibit that featured pieces of abstraction, digital art, sculpture and traditional oil composition.
Emily Schultz, UNH graduate student and former art and music major, started the LiveARTS! program in 2015 upon finding the space and deeming it unutilized.
“I thought it was a great space for music,” Schultz said.
“[Schultz] does a fantastic job, it’s a great event. It’s a nice place to be, we want people to know about it. This helps,” the museum’s education and communications manager, Sara Zela, said.
Dogs Who Know They’re Dogs, who served as the opening act, began their acoustic set one player short as guitarist Dylan O’Neil was on hiatus for the evening, Wilson explained.
The band played “The Bear” by My Morning Jacket, “Ruby” by Dave Rawlings Machine and an untitled original by Wilson.
Attendees lingered around artwork as the band serenaded the room with folksy bluegrass and upbeat alternative rock. Armed with a bongo and a mandolin, The “Dogs” opened their set with a punch; florescent lights never felt so charming.
Restless legs and nail biting breaths filled the corner of room where people waited for their turn to perform.
“We’re not going to kill it, we’re going to murder it,” art education major Mir Mail said about her group, which also features the twin brother duo of UNH seniors Mark and Andrew DelGrosso.
“We have all types of acts, we’ve seen wind instruments, slide guitarists and some French horn,” Zela said.
Kate Curtis interrupted her set with Dan Lorenz on guitar to plug in an electric kazoo and zoot along to the tune of bouncy acoustic guitar.
The chairs at the open mic were never filled to capacity, but a small crowd gathered behind them, allowing for easy access to the free coffee and the view of the art. Small, artificial candles were placed in Mason jars around the exhibit, juxtaposing the harsh white light with a sprinkle of yellow. Most of the art featured within the view of the “stage,” or rather a pile of carefully calculated cables, was black and white.
“I think a nice pairing of ear and eye can amplify the two together,” Dogs Who Know They’re Dogs mandolin player Wilson said.
Junior sociology major Aurora LaFond took the stage with a watercolor painted piece of cardboard that promoted the SoundCloud account where one can find her music for free. Adorned with a feather in her hat and a pair of fringe boots, she filled the high ceilings with experimental folk and jazz with a dark-brown C.F. Martin & Co. acoustic guitar.
The open mic expose created a platform that granted musicians the opportunity to appreciate art, and artists to appreciate musicians. The crowd was not exclusively students, as many community members and faculty attended as well.
“I knew we had the museum, but I had never been,” outdoor education major Nick Koski said. “This was a great excuse to come, I’ll be back.”
The museum plans to continue the annual event after Schultz’ graduation, art and music major Dan Faiella is currently being trained to help replace her the coordinator
“I am an art major and a music major, so I tend to straddle the two worlds. I see kids walk by the museum all the time, this event brings them inside and I am excited to share that,” Faiella said.
The open mic event is part an effort by the museum to combine different mediums of art to create a comfortable environment.
“It is a nice place to gather; it brings up good conversation. Combining the arts can help create a community around them,” Zela said.
The shallow hall was filled with good tunes, creative writing and beautiful artwork. The show shall go on, as will the art.
“It’s nice to see a presentation of the arts community coming together. Community, music and art … it’s like the holy trinity,” LaFond said.