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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

What was your Rose Art experience?

Published: January 30, 2009
Section: Opinions

I’d never been in the Rose Art Museum before. A good friend of mine had worked there for a few years and had told me many a story about the exciting exhibits he’d seen pass through the museum and the wonderful people who worked there. I’d been meaning to stop by for a tour, but like so many things in life, I just hadn’t found the time just yet.

My second semester at Brandeis, though, I found myself in the museum several times. As I walked in, one of the first things I noticed was the utter serenity filling the open space. The faint trickling of water sounded from the fountain below. The distant patter of light footsteps circling the galleries met my ears. It was a slow day in the museum. But perhaps that was part of its charm. After all, how many places on campus can you truly escape the hubbub?

For one of these visits, I had finally come for my tour. Let me preface this by saying that I’m not an artist by any means. I don’t know the difference between impressionism and modernism and I can’t draw to save my life. But as I walked the galleries and listened to my friend Andrew’s explanation of the paintings, I could understand how much this museum meant to its employees and the people visiting it.

Visually, I was struck by the unique and various displays which filled the museum. From actual paintings to video art displays, the Rose Art museum truly thrived at including a variety of art in its various forms. The amount of history imbued in this 49-year-old museum was clearly evident. This is the Rose Art Museum I saw.

Personally, I was struck for a different reason. For two of my other visits, I found myself at the Rose Art Museum for business. The first time, I was there to write an article and was there to speak with Assistant Director for Operations Roy Dawes.

As features editor for The Hoot, I’m always interested in covering the hidden stories. Too often we pay the most attention to the high profile issues on campus. Too often we forget that a community includes all of its members. Too often we dismiss the topics that don’t interest us academically.

But Andrew had told me about Roy and I decided he would make a good subject for my next feature. Dawes’ pure love for and dedication to his job struck me instantly and have since left a lasting impression. This is the Rose Art Museum I saw.

I also remember making a delivery to the museum one day last summer. It was pouring outside and I had foolishly forgotten my umbrella in my car. I walked in the building, happy for the shelter. When a few of the Rose Art employees saw my wet hair, they immediately looked for something, anything, that I might use to cover my head with for the short distance it would take me to walk over to Shapiro Campus Center. This is the Rose Art Museum I saw.

This was my Rose Art experience. What has yours been? Have you ever taken the time to visit the well-known space? Have you paid attention to your surroundings or simply walked around with your headphones in your ears or you phone in your hands?

For many people, art represents beauty. For others, art is a means of self expression and a going against the grain. In tough economic times, people turn to outlets that provide them solace. Music, movies, art–they all have the potential to take us out of the grind of daily life and transport us to a place

In tough economic times, sadly the things we turn to the most are the first to go. Unlike food or shelter, art is not a necessity to survive. But it is the thread holding together many an artist around this campus and around the globe. This is what makes the recent announcement of the Rose Art’s closing that much more tragic.

This is not a column decrying the decision to close the Rose Art Museum. It’s not a plea to keep the museum open or to reconsider the decision. There is enough of that going around national media, and to repeat what has been said would be redundant. What it is, rather, is a tribute to the space so many have admired over the years.

If it isn’t obvious from the language of this column, I personally feel this is a tragedy for the Brandeis community and that around us as well–I will say that much. Who is to say what’s more important or more expendable in an economic crisis? Who’s to say whether or not the Rose Art Museum should be closed before taking other actions? Certainly, the Brandeis community and the donors who gave pieces of art to the museum have every right to be upset at this sudden decision.

Some plan to fight for their beloved museum. But in doing so, you also have the opportunity to make an important point from this fight. Too many times on this campus, people fight just for the sake of fighting. Too often, people complain for the sake of complaining.

Obviously in this case, the closing of the Rose Art Museum isn’t just some silly little thing. Many hold this cause dear to their hearts and are deeply saddened by the decision to close the museum. But besides the fight, let us not forget the employees of the Rose Art museum. Let us not forget the many exhibits that have passed through the doors of this building. Let us not make the breakup soil the former relationship.

How many art students have walked through the galleries and found relief in the expressive paintings adorning the walls? How many budding artists have sat down beside a painting and simply stared?

We do need to recognize the beauty of the Rose at the same time as expressing disdain for the decision to close it. Whether that recognition fuels your desire to fight for the Rose even more is up to you, but what is important now is that people share their Rose experience.

Furthermore, let us take this as an example that we must recognize the ‘hidden gems’ on this campus. Like the colors in a painting, we all make up the Brandeis community; we each contribute something to the tapestry. But so often we stick with our color groups. We must recognize the beauty that remains before it is too late to do so. We must break through our comfort zones, take our headphones out and see each other. Too often we don’t realize we miss something until it’s almost gone. Such is the case with the Rose Art museum. Too often we stick to the norm or sit in the same spot in class. Too often we don’t branch out. But while you have the chance to do so, do it.

Visit the museum before it’s too late. Witness the beauty and the serenity that is the Rose Art Museum.

Yes this is tragic. Yes students, alumnae, faculty, staff and community members have every right to be enraged, sad and disappointed, but don’t let those feelings cloud your love for the Rose.

Do fight for what you love, but in doing so, please don’t let the bitterness of the fight sour the sweetness that made you fight for it in the first place.