Hunter Museum outreach programs leap off the walls, and wet your whistle
Belly up to the…art gallery? Thursday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m., the Hunter Museum offers an event titled “Cocktails in Color” that curator Adera Causey promises to be a thought-provoking and entertaining “respite from the traditional art museum experience.”
Two local bartenders, Sanders Parker and Kaleena Goldsworthy, from the Flying Squirrel bar, will prepare an alcoholic drink known as Arnaud’s French 75 for guests to sample. But first, the two mixologists will lead an informal, free-ranging dialogue in the gallery about a painting, Reginald Marsh’s “Subway—14th Street,” that inspired them to choose this particular libation for the evening.
“Cocktails in Color” is a bold concept, “mixing” drinks with art appreciation, which the Hunter plans to follow up three times in the next 12 months. “Its philosophy is drawn from our Artful Yoga and Art Alive and other outreach programs for adults,” says Causey, curator of education for the Chattanooga landmark museum. “We’re clearly marketing to people under 40, that young professional crowd, to get people together who might not traditionally be in the museum, to hang out with their peers and have fun.”
No pretension. No artistic theory or blue periods or lecturing heads. Just people getting together to talk about a painting…and try a fancy drink.
The evening will progress thusly: Bartenders have selected the artwork that reminds them of a drink; guests have a stimulating discussion in front of the artwork (without drinks); bartenders demonstrate how to make the drink and hand out the recipe; everyone who wishes to, partakes of the drink. (One drink is included in the $20 ticket price, with a cash bar available after that, and an after-party at the Flying Squirrel, 55 Johnson St., off Main Street. Naturally, it’s an over-21 evening.)
“When I first heard of the event I was very excited,” says bartender Parker. “I love art in all forms, and I also love making cocktails. Having the chance to combine the two was a no-brainer and the folks at the Hunter are awesome to work with as well.”
There’s a speakeasy theme to this first “Cocktails in Color” event; future iterations will have different themes, but will retain the collaboration with the Flying Squirrel. “We’re providing a version of a classic cocktail called Arnaud’s French 75, made famous by Arnaud’s bar in New Orleans,” says Parker. “The main difference with Arnaud’s French 75 is that it uses cognac instead of gin. The other ingredients are champagne, lemon juice, and simple syrup. It’s a Prohibition-era cocktail, and the richness of the cognac should match the chilly weather as well. The bubbles from the champagne also mesh nicely with the liveliness of the painting.”
“People love to learn new things about mixology, so let’s tie that to works of art,” says Causey. The idea arose from an audience development committee at the Hunter, but it’s only one of many outreach programs that “increase agency and involvement of visitors interacting with grassroots leaders, people who are doing interesting things in the community.”
A quick glance at Hunter Museum’s events webpage (huntermuseum.org/hunter-events) reveals the depth and breadth of Hunter’s outreach. “Artful Yoga” meets one Saturday per month from 1:30-3 p.m., featuring a local yoga teacher “deriving the intention for the practice from a work of art” from Hunter’s gallery, according to Causey. Jillian Shelton Ricks of Jullian’s Studio will lead “The Touch of Yoga” session on Nov. 21, and Kim Eisdorfer of Toes Yoga presents the theme “Breaking the Ice” with a session on Dec. 5. A $5 donation to support outreach programs is suggested; bringing your own yoga mat is a must.
“The Art of Meditation” program features a discussion and meditative practice led by Yong Oh, well-known acupuncturist and mindfulness/meditation guide locally. Springing from the painting “Rosy Morning” by George Inness, that free session begins at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9, and requires a cushion or pillow for sitting.
“Art Alive” is an event series for dance, and in future, “Vision and Verse” for spoken-word poetry, which also bring together artists and the community for informal, unscripted encounters, scheduled from time to time. The “Art + Issues” series in the past five years has given community “grassroots leaders and activists,” in Causey’s words, a chance to address with a gathered audience “difficult issues in our community and our nation,” again springboarding from a work of art.
The museum’s commitment to creative community outreach will yield many future opportunities to “belly up” to whatever is your poison—artistically speaking, of course.