Kansas State University


Beach Blog

A Tale of Wonder

Plaster cast of Lorenzo de Medici Sculpture, C. Henneke Co., c.1882 on loan from K-State College of Architecture, Planning & Design. Photo courtesy of Beach Museum of Art.

Today’s post by Sarah Caldwell Hancock is inspired by the upcoming Night of Wonder fundraising gala for the Beach Museum of Art. Sarah grew up in Western Kansas, graduated from K-State in 1994 (B.A., English and Economics) and 1996 (M.A., English), spent a few years on the West Coast, then returned to the Manhattan area in 2004. She works as a technical editor in the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education and lives in the wilds of Pottawatomie County with her husband and two sons. She served the Friends of the Beach Museum of Art as vice president. She enjoys reading, gardening, knitting, cooking, basketball, playing piano, and, of course, the visual and performing arts.

In February of this year, the Beach Museum of Art unveiled an exhibition called “Museum of Wonder” to celebrate K-State’s sesquicentennial. Odd and ends, some beautiful, some just weird, were culled from classrooms, offices, and musty storage closets all around campus, each one a witness to a moment of campus life over the span of 150 years.

The collection was inspired by cabinets of curiosities, or “curios,” amassed by wealthy Europeans beginning in the 16th century. I hope you saw it and that the exhibition did more than just pique your curiosity: To move beyond mere curiosity is to enter the magical realm of wonder.

"Museum of Wonder" exhibition. Personal photo by Adrianne Russell

Lawrence Weschler, author of Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, an odd book about the Museum of Jurassic Technology, a peculiar collection in East L.A., writes of something called the “Wunderkammer sensibility.” He describes it as “wonder or marvel as upon one of the essential components of the study of nature and the unraveling of its secrets … wonder defined [as it was up to the end of the eighteenth century] as a form of learning—an intermediate, highly particular state akin to a sort of suspension of the mind between ignorance and enlightenment that marks the end of unknowing and the beginning of knowing.”

I can put Wunderkammer in simpler terms. For me, art is a great source of wonder. Art is a beacon that helps me navigate the sometimes-dark passages between unknowing and knowing.

Cow Skeleton on loan from K-State College of Agriculture. Photo courtesy of Beach Museum of Art.

After blue-sky sessions to discuss the type of event we wanted to attend (formal or informal? sit-down or buffet? serious or comic? what type of entertainment? what location?), we settled on a magical circus theme. But when we listened to museum staff discuss the upcoming “Museum of Wonder” exhibition, the Night of Wonder emerged.

We planned an evening that’s a live Wunderkammer: a new curiosity around every corner.

We also found inspiration in local artist Jim Munce’s piece, “The Queen of the Night Makes a Formal Appearance,” which conveys the mysterious rhythm of wonder through its hazy view of a queen, her sceptre, her gazing owl, and references to the wonders of the moon and nature. The Queen watches you from inside our Night of Wonder invitations, and we are so grateful to Jim for his permission to reproduce her.

We knew we needed to look no further than our own campus to find entertainment to provide wonder and sophistication. Kurt Gartner and Laura Donnelly from the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance were enthusiastic collaborators; when we came together, ideas flowed. After 45 minutes of energetic brainstorming, Kurt said, “We have talked all this time and no one has said what we can’t do.”

Kurt and Laura recruited musicians and dancers. Laura then mentioned our project to Vibha Jani in the College of Architecture, Planning & Design. Vibha caught the inspiration and offered her class to provide a signature sculpture for the event. Spark led to spark, and students presented ideas to a subset of our fundraising committee, and we told them what moved us. They refined the project and the results will be on display as an interactive sculpture outdoors on the north side of the museum.

More is in store, but you will need to attend to see.

As I write, my email folder for this event contains 911 messages, and I have spent many hours working on details both alone and with the indefatigable members of the fundraising committee. Details are falling into place. Around every corner will be a new curiosity, a refreshing experience, something to see or hear and plant a seed of wonder. We will have drinks and conversation and fine dining and surprises. We’ll think about art and about the Beach Museum, a gem of our campus and community.

We hope you feel wonder.

The Night of Wonder is September 20, 2013. To purchase tickets call 785-532-7718 or email longpine@ksu.edu. 

About Adrianne Russell

Adrianne is the Beach Museum of Art's Public Programs Coordinator. She is a technophile, avid reader, and unabashed art nerd.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *