The University of Pennsylvania’s recent exhibit displays an ancient passion for preserving art.
Why do we create art? At first, it seems like a simple question, as many of us answer boldly: to express ourselves, of course. But if we look into this inquiry deeper, emotional ties, propaganda and presentation of world and interior issues can follow. And with these answers come more questions, such as: Why is art important?
Artists and enthusiasts must provoke these questions and give our own answers, but there are few things that can help remind us why expression and creation are important. One important thing that not only artists but all students must do is visit museums and bask in the creativity and craft of the past.
This past week, one exhibit in particular opened at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, which I encourage all Philadelphia students to see. The exhibit, titled “Iraq’s Ancient Past: Rediscovering Ur’s Royal Cemetery,” is a great exhibit to experience, showcasing many precious artifacts of the Ancient Near East.
Several aspects to this exhibit in particular stress its importance to the museum and the Philadelphian public. The artifacts in the exhibit from the Cemetery of Ur have been on tour for a few years now, traveling across the nation to share its history and splendor.
With the artifacts finally back in their hometown, the exhibit is celebrating the great history of the University of Pennsylvania and its famous archeological discoveries of the past. In addition, the nation shares an understanding of the events that are now occurring in present-day Iraq and the majority of the Middle East.
The exhibit is designed to remind spectators of the flourishing civilization that existed in Ancient Mesopotamia, to help those flooded with the violent images of today be reminded of the beautiful past and appreciate the history of such an area, as well as give insight to the future of the Middle East.
What is unique about the art of the ancient world is that questions like “Why do we create art?” or “Why is art important?” did not come up in those days. In that time, art was more than an expression of emotion; it was used for documentation of historical events, the preservation of important figures and for religion as a whole. Art was all they had in those times, and the beauty and care that went into each piece survived for thousands of years, for us to enjoy today.
No matter what anyone says, when you look at the art of the past, when art was essentially a life-preserving thing, the time, energy and passion that went into each piece does not compare to the art of today. This passion is something essential we can learn, not just from the ancient arts, but from the art of the forefathers of the Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Impressionist, Expressionist and Modern eras.
Their passion, the fact they considered art a “life-preserving” aspect, is something we all need to embrace and appreciate. Such passion is extremely hard to come by in this day, not just in art, but also in many aspects of life.
So, who will carry the next generation? Who will start the next movement? No one knows, but in the moment, we can appreciate those who have made those movements and created the art and passion that has survived for thousands of years.
The Iraq’s Ancient Past exhibit is a great place to begin, not to mention the museum is also filled with gorgeous Egyptian, Asian and until January, Mayan art of the ages. It is truly an experience anyone can appreciate and learn from. The Penn Museum also encourages the public and students alike to immerse themselves into different cultures.
On Nov. 20, the museum will be giving a special event from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. with the Ur exhibit. Not only can people enjoy the exhibit, but the presence of authentic Middle Eastern music, dance and refreshments will add to the atmosphere and allow for a great cultural experience.
The event is part of Penn’s “Arts Crawl” for the day, and the museum along with several galleries and other artistic and cultural venues will offer many opportunities, from free admission into exhibits to special events and food.
Nicole Welk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.