While there are a number of great museums in Connecticut, one that is often overlooked is the William Benton Museum of Art. Located in the middle of the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut, the museum opened in 1967, but goes back even farther historically.
History of the Museum
The museum’s collection began with a posthumous donation by former College President Charles Lewis Beach in 1933. Beach also created a trust so that the museum could increase its holdings beyond his own collection. Since then, the museum has added numerous pieces by many artists, including Mary Cassatt and Gustav Klimt, and in many styles.
In 1967, the Beach Collection, as the continually growing collection of works was known, found a home in the Museum which was named in 1972 for William Benton, a Connecticut Senator and a University Trustee. Benton’s family donated their own large collection of Reginald Marsh paintings and others to the museum. The museum continues to grow and evolve to this day, and is a treasure for both the University community and the entire state.
The Gallery and Current Exhibits
The collections are spread out over three floors in the museum building. Currently showing beginning in January are:
Views and Re-views: Soviet Political Posters and Cartoons
January 25 – March 20, 2011
This collection of Soviet era political posters and cartoons dates from 1919 to the 1980s. The works were chosen to fit the theme “Friends and Enemies,” an important concept in Soviet society.
January 25 – December 18, 2011
This collection of 35 video works was chosen by 35 different museum curators from around the world. It was put together to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Independent Curators International and the acceptance of video as art today.
There are generally also online exhibitions running, currently Arpilleras and Molas, each exhibiting a unique art form from South or Central America.
Friday Film Festival
The upcoming theme is Mystery and Intrigue in the Art World. Movies are shown on select Fridays at 12:15 p.m. for free in March and April. The films will be The Rape of Europa, Stolen, The Desert of Forbidden Art, and The Art of the Steal.
The museum also sponsors a number of campus art walks throughout the year, as well as upcoming talks from the “Treasures from the Vault” series.
Both the Views and Re-Views exhibit, and an upcoming Photo Identities exhibit coming up in March, will offer free Gallery Talks.
In January, the Museum’s website will also be announcing the spring schedule of digital photography classes and field trips.
The Museum Store
The store offers a wide variety of gifts and keepsakes, from the standard pencils and postcards to items which are beautiful works of art in their own right. There are occasionally classes and projects to make, especially around the holidays, hosted by the museum at a very low cost to the public.
Named for the original University of Connecticut dining hall, The Beanery offers coffee, tea, hot cocoa and snacks to please any palate. They also host a morning “Happy Hour” from 10 to 11 a.m. where you can get coffee and tea at half price.
The William Benton Museum of Art is a jewel that is not to be missed whether you are visiting Connecticut or are a long-time resident. The exhibits and events change regularly, and there is a wide variety of art and events to appeal to many tastes. It has been enjoyed for generations since it was first started, and has expanded in both size and popularity through the years.
The Benton Museum will reopen in January. Regular hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, although donations are accepted. You can visit the museum and get more information at http://www.thebenton.org. Find them on Facebook at William Benton Museum of Art.