Last Thursday marked the 147th birthday of Stanford University’s namesake, Leland Stanford, Jr., and to ring in the special occasion, the Cantor Arts Center threw a birthday party in the form of an open house.
As with any birthday party, there were cupcakes and goodie bags for the students who came out to celebrate Leland’s birthday. The main attraction at the party, however, was a self-guided tour of the Cantor that showcased the birthday boy’s collection of ancient objects, featuring artifacts from Egyptian, Greek and Native American civilizations.
The idea of this self-guided tour was thought up by Nathalie Weiss ’16, president of the Cantor’s Student Advisory Board. As a member of the board, Weiss was a key player in planning the event; this was the first year that Leland’s birthday had been celebrated at Stanford in this manner.
“We had a meeting a couple weeks ago, and we were throwing around ideas; this one popped up and we all loved it, so we threw [the party] together,” Weiss said.
Ari Echt-Wilson ’17 first got involved with the Cantor through their summer internship program, which started last summer. Currently a member of the Student Advisory Board’s events committee, she explained that the idea for the party came from wanting to find an interesting way to get students to come to the Cantor.
“The original idea was to have a day that was very informal, where people just came by the museum, but we didn’t really think there was enough incentive there,” said Echt-Wilson. “Nathalie was looking up important dates in Stanford’s history, and once we found that it was Leland’s birthday, we said, ‘This is the perfect theme for the party.’”
Kim Mansfield, Coordinator of Student Engagement at the Cantor, added that the idea was promptly given the green light by the arts center’s director, Connie Wolf, as well as the education staff and operations staff.
“I think that there’s some special fondness for the Stanford family, especially for Leland Jr., since that’s the reason we’re all here,” Mansfield said. “If we can celebrate him a little bit, then I think that’s great.”
Students party with Leland
The Student Advisory Board estimates that 170 students went to the party Thursday night, many of them freshmen. There were several reasons why students decided to make the trek out to the Cantor; some of them had fond memories of Party on the Edge, some came out with friends and some found it to be a calming break.
“It sounded like a nice way to celebrate where we are, and appreciate being here—when it’s between midterms and finals, it’s a nice break from everything—and be reminded of how lucky we are,” said Gabrielle Shiner ’18.
Other students went to the Cantor to enjoy the wide variety of arts on display.
“I really enjoyed events like Party on the Edge, and I like coming to Cantor to see all the art,” said Ricky Cordova ’18. As a part of his ITALIC curriculum, Cordova is taking a class in which the final project involves creating an original work of art to display in the Cantor. An aspiring painter, he sought inspiration from the paintings on display.
For Carolyn Rice ’18, art history is what attracts her to the Cantor. Her favorite class in high school was AP Art History; coming to the arts center was a great way for her to learn more about the topic. Rice has been coming to the Cantor since doing a project on it for her PWR class, “Not Just Art: The Rhetoric of Museums.”
“Since then, I’ve been here for multiple other events,” she said. “When I heard that there was a party there with food, I thought that was a great chance to come again.”
The Student Advisory Board
The Cantor’s Student Advisory Board has thrown a handful of events this year geared toward students. For instance, the Cantor kicked off the school year with its 16th Party on the Edge back in October. This year, though, the Cantor has hosted more events throughout the year in the hopes that students will come out to the arts center more frequently.
“We really want students to know that we’re a resource on campus, not only for fun social events, but for academic endeavors as well,” said Mansfield.
One such event that was both social and academic was the recent exhibition opening for Jacob Lawrence, a 20th-century African-American painter whose works depicted the lives of African Americans throughout history. The Student Advisory Board only just started hosting exhibition openings this year, but Weiss stated that they fully intend to do more.
“This year we’ve really enjoyed planning the exhibition openings,” said Weiss. “It’s a good way to get a more focused crowd, because it’s really nice to have the whole museum open, but you’re really coming to see a specific exhibit. We’re definitely going to plan more of those.”
The Student Advisory Board was only just founded last year. The board was created when Mansfield came into her position two years ago. Mansfield took ideas from other universities that had arts museums with similar groups and decided to create one for the Cantor with Wolf’s support.
“It’s a really great way to get students involved in planning events for the museum,” Mansfield said.
The members of the Student Advisory Board echoed Mansfield’s statements, noting that being involved has allowed them to see more of campus.
“There’s so much to learn, even from spending just an hour walking around the museum,” Echt-Wilson added. “It’s an incredible place of history—not just of art, but in particular of Stanford. It’s a great way to be connected to the Stanford heritage.”
Contact Jacob Nierenberg at jhn2017 ‘at’ stanford.edu.