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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Give art a chance

On a fall day in 2018, while visiting my sister, Quinn O’Hara ’21, here at St. Joe’s, the O’Hara family wanted a new experience: something fresh and enticing that would make the brisk autumn day worth something more. So, we listened to my mom’s big idea and went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Center City.

But, after walking up the iconic “Rocky” steps that lead to the museum’s front entrance, I checked out. For the next three hours, I moped around, wishing I was anywhere else.

I wasn’t into art and never had been. The quiet, the relaxation, the requisite in-depth analysis: all of it intimidated me.

In a 2018 study conducted by the Park West Gallery in New York City, 63% of millennials said they know something about art and agreed that they appreciate art. I wanted to be a part of the majority and learn to appreciate art. I wanted to feel that same love for the galleries.

So, this year, five years after my family trip, I gave it another shot at the Frances M. Maguire Art Museum on the Hawk Hill campus. The museum opened in May 2023 but was previously a part of the Barnes Arboretum on campus. Now, the existing beauty of the outdoor nature of the Barnes is paired with the new art displayed in the museum.

I knew I could not do it on my own, so I reached out for a guided tour from the museum.

Veronica Farr, education outreach coordinator for the Frances M. Maguire Art Museum, set me up with four students she is training to be museum docents, Lanie Smith ’25, Jack Kohn ’25, Patrick Branley ’27 and Bladimir Lemus ’26. My tour was their first.

Farr seemed receptive to my willingness to try.

“We have taken a position here that we want this space to be community-centric,” Farr said. “We really want to take the idea of a museum into a space much more relevant and [we] want to speak to what students care about.”

The museum entails 15 different galleries, with art ranging from full-sized sculptures to stained glass that fills an entire room. The building is named after the late Frances M. Maguire, wife of James Maguire ’58 and an artist herself. Her own pieces can be found throughout the museum.

Lemus, an art major, has always been inspired by what art can bring to individuals and communities.

“I realized when one person creates something it’s personal for that person with their own style, and even [if] someone else were trying to recreate it, it is going to have their own style with each person, their own personal beliefs and system behind it,” Lemus said.

As we walked through the museum, I was fascinated by the knowledge these four students had about all of the pieces in the museum. In the St. Joe’s history room, one factoid that stood out was how a St. Joe’s graduate designed the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. How cool is that?

Out of all the art, one piece blew me away: the statue of Zeus of Artemision. As I went to the museum’s second floor, I felt like a crumb compared to the sculptures standing tall next to me. I walked around the room filled with three-dimensional sculptures and came across the grand bronze sculpture that resembled the powerful god Zeus.

Standing at an astounding 6 feet 8 inches, it felt as though it was about to come to life. The arm is positioned like it is holding the thunderbolt, a regular occurrence for Zeus. However, it was recovered from a Roman shipwreck near Cape Artemision in 1928, so some pieces of the sculpture are missing.

The eyes of the statue stared directly into my soul, and I felt a connection to the piece. It was the first time I could feel an art piece come to life.

P.J. O’Hara ’24 admires the sculpture of Moses at Francis A. Maguire Art Museum, Nov. 4. PHOTO: MADELINE WILLIAMS ’26/THE HAWK

The docents in training dedicated their knowledge to educating me, which was an experience within itself that I loved. Having open ears led me to find out the motivations behind the art and interpretations of pieces. Some interactive exhibits allow students to interpret that same art for themselves, as tour guides let you express your thoughts on the pieces throughout the tour.

Such pieces as the “never” sign made out of commission guns tell a greater story. I was able to interpret the piece and share that story with the docents in training.

The biggest key was keeping an open mind, which is what Branley emphasized as new entrants to art explore these spaces.

“I think that anyone can get into art if they’re just willing enough to have an open mind about it,” Branley said.

Trust me, if I can go to an art museum and enjoy it as much as I did, you can, too. There is new information to be found at every corner with new ideas that can spark the artistic side in all of us.

Now, I know where the O’Hara family is headed the next time they visit St. Joe’s.

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