Op-ed: Philly museums should draw bigger college crowds

Ries argues that students should explore Philadelphia’s various museums.

One of the greatest things about going to a university in Philadelphia is that you’re never bored. There is always a new band to see, an unfamiliar restaurant to eat at or a uniquely insane person to get yelled at by. The cultured sights and sounds of this city don’t stop there, though. With the vast number of museums, Philadelphia is a great city for the arts.

The Barnes Foundation, at  2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, stands head and shoulders above all other art venues in the city. Its staggering collection, which houses arguably the greatest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist arts in the world, was assembled by Albert Barnes in the early 1900s.

Perhaps the most unique component of the Barnes’ experience is the atmosphere that the arrangement creates. At most museums, the art is hung monolithically on sterile white walls, as though to signify its importance through placement. This sort of pretentious atmosphere only serves to dehumanize the art. The typical museum’s authoritative voice robs the viewer of an untainted appraisal of — and connection with — the art based on its own merits.

Such an atmosphere is not found at the Barnes. It refuses to condescend to the observer by placing the art on a pedestal. Paintings clutter the walls in near rhythmic patterns, playing off the aesthetics and styles of both the other paintings and the room itself. Art hangs over doorways. It’s jammed into corners. By stripping the recognized masterpieces of their grandeur, the art can be viewed as though for the first time. A genuine connection and appraisal can be made.

But perhaps the greatest feature of the Barnes is that it has recently been moved from Lower Merion — not exactly a trek to Mordor but still an inconvenience for curious Temple students — to its current home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

And really, there has never been a better opportunity for Temple students to visit than the present. Now it no longer exists in recreational isolation like proponents of the move made it out to be, but is instead surrounded by places to eat and things to do. Although something was surely lost when the collection was moved out of its scenic original home, perhaps it is fitting that a visit to the Barnes should now exist unpretentiously in between a ride on the subway and a cheap cheesesteak. Located just off the Broad Street Line, the collection is right at our fingertips, and admission is only $10 with a Temple ID. Tyler students even gain free admission.

But the Barnes isn’t the only museum in town. If you’re looking for a more general overview of art’s history and various movements, the Philadelphia Museum of Art offers a great and varied selection. If the grand philosophic meaning in a blank canvas or a pile of household appliances is more your speed, then there’s always the Institute of Contemporary Art. If you’re interested in local artists or taking classes in art, the Woodmere Art Museum showcases a great collection of Philadelphia-area artists and offers classes as well.

Regardless of your tastes, Philadelphia is a great city to view art. The number of museums that reside within a short SEPTA ride is staggering.

And you’re absolutely right. With all the options that abound in the city and most offering some sort of student discount, there is no reason Temple students shouldn’t be out enjoying the summation of human history’s artistic culture.

With all of this within a short reach, no one has any excuse not to go out and make his/her own opinion.

Charlie Ries is a freshman communications major.

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