Kent State Stark expo brings 19th century art to life

Natalie Meek

Kent State Stark students restaged the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition on Sept. 27 as part of a national program called Reacting to the Past.

The 1889 Paris Universal Exposition was a gathering of international artists, critics and buyers. It also featured the construction of the Eiffel Tower.

Each student enrolled in the Early 20th Century Art course was assigned a character who was historically significant to the 1889 Paris Universal Exposition. The students spent the past few weeks learning about their character’s background, opinions and influences on art of the late 1800s.

At the restaging of the exposition, students embodied their characters and interacted with attendees who acted interesting in buying their character’s art.

For Clayton Dills, a senior studio arts major, participating in the game helped him understand the material he was learning. Dills took on the character Gustave Moreau, a prominent figure in French Symbolist art.

“I think that by restaging it, you could really feel the political tensions and artistic ideals,” Dills said. “It just sticks with you longer. It’s the difference between learning and memorizing. You can train like a monkey to remember things from a book, but to actually learn it, you have to feel it.”

Fifty guests attended the mock art exposition, including Lauren LeBlanc, a sophomore exploratory major.

“It was very fun and very interesting,” LeBlanc said. “The characters were very active with the crowd, and seeing the event in person really made it make sense. I learned a lot more.”

The professor of the class, Marie Gasper-Hulvat, said that she often incorporates games into her course because they allow students to experiment with alternative outcomes of historical events.

“One really important skill is being able to talk about art using formal analysis,” Gasper-Hulvat said. “It’s important for students to have the chance to interact with people outside of the class about the material they are learning. It makes what we study in class significant in the real world.”

For photos of the event, click here.

Natalie Meek is the south regional campuses and aeronautics reporter. Contact her at [email protected].