In past years, Mathers Museum of World Cultures has put on events and programming related to the fall semester’s College of Arts and Sciences Themester. This year, they are taking on the complex theme of beauty.
The museum will be host to a full scope of events Thursday exploring various topics both related to and separate from Themester.
Jason Jackson, director of the museum, said it will be a big day for Mathers. The festivities will start in the morning with opportunities to learn from visiting Indiana folk artists in residence.
Viki Graber, a basket maker; John Bundy, a decoy carver; John Bennett, an expert in blacksmithing; and Greg Adams, a willow furniture maker, will present their work with demonstrations beginning at 10:30 a.m.
One of Jackson’s colleagues will ask the artists questions during the narrative stage portion, beginning at 11:45 a.m.
“It’s a really interesting opportunity for students to come up and talk to them,” Jackson said. “If I were teaching any class, I would bring the students here.”
Mathers will also have demonstrations as part of the First Thursdays Festival, an initiative of the Arts and Humanities Council. The festival includes activities at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Lilly Library, the School of Fine Arts and more, taking place in the center of campus.
Beginning at 5 p.m., Mathers will have a tent set up next to Woodburn Hall with the same visiting artists demonstrating their crafts.
“Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education and AIDS in South Africa” takes its title from a Zulu word meaning “we are trying.” The exhibit explores the association between traditional craft and knowledge and how arts are being used to combat AIDS.
The exhibition stemmed from the South African National Cultural Heritage Project, which aims to train professionals across a variety of fields in best practices to work in South Africa. The project is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Ford Foundation and Michigan State University. The School of Public Health, Bloomington and Themester are all sponsors of this exhibition.
Siyazama is one of three exhibitions at Mathers geared toward highlighting beauty in honor of this Themester. Patrons who come to the Siyazama opening at 7 p.m. tomorrow will also have a chance to see “Costume: Beauty, Meaning and Identity in Dress,” a photographic series exploring the power of costumes in communicating beauty, and “Hózhó: Navajo Beauty, Navajo Weavings.”
The theme of beauty is one that Jackson, who is also on the committee for Themester, said inspires necessary dialogue on a topic that is often left undiscussed.
“It turned out to be challenging in ways that were instructive,” Jackson said. “Beauty is something that everybody knows about, thinks about and has feelings about but that scholars, professors and academics tend to not want to go into, and there are reasons for that.”
Jackson said beauty is something that people might assume offers a lot of avenues for exploration and willing demonstrators, but it’s far more complicated than that.
“The idea of beauty is vexed — everybody loves a beautiful landscape, but thinking and talking about beauty is kind of hard,” Jackson said. “It’s a contested and difficult topic — that means it’s worth exploring. It didn’t come as easily as some thought. I’m really happy with what’s going on around campus and the museum this semester.”