BAMPFA’s student opening draws crowds for art, festivities

Zainab Ali/Staff

Even the rain couldn’t stop hundreds of students from attending the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, or BAMPFA, student opening party Friday night.

The event, titled “In Space,” was hosted by the BAMPFA Student Committee and attracted an impressive line of earnest attendees wrapping around numerous blocks in Downtown Berkeley.

The museum’s inaugural exhibition is “Architecture of Life,” encouraged viewers to consider how subjects like geometry, technology and anatomy fit into museums as a kind of art. Buckminster Fuller’s blueprints were hung up next to sculptures of circular interlocking shapes, and light pencil sketches of Purkinje cells were unassumingly lined up and anything but out of place among other modern drawings.

The three stories of art galleries ranged from modern sculptures such as Ruth Asawa’s ethereal wire baskets to gem-colored 14th-century Indian mandalas. One room, home to Tomas Saraceno’s “Microscale, Macroscale, and Beyond,” was a small dark space with limited entry, displayed four intricate spider webs illuminated in thick glass cages by suspended spotlights.

The point of the night is to see and be seen — students wandered about the expansive space dressed in their Berkeley best. There were many a pair of cool leather boots and hip eyeglasses to be found.

From couples discussing paintings in low earnest voices to a rambunctious game of over-sized Jenga to those who joyfully expressed that “these stairs are so Instagram worthy,” the event had something for everyone. Large crowds huddled around crafting tables of stickers and collage materials in the BAMFA’s art lab, and a downstairs playroom drew others unironically enthralled by Legos and blocks.  

As a student DJ played throughout the night, clusters of students seemed content to mingle throughout the white-walled galleries and sit on the blonde wood bleachers near the museum entrance. All that was missing was wine and cheese.

For some, attending the event seemed like a fabulously bougie, grown-up outing.

“It’s a fresh thing to do,” said sophomore Emily Pedersen. “You come here instead of the frat, meet with friends, get cultured, take photos with each other. I love it!”

Others found the museum to offer even more than just a fun social space.

“It’s cool to discover new artists and see that the museum has all this new artwork,” said third-year art major Belinda Cortez, referencing a documentary that integrated elements of film, art, and dance being played in another room. “I know for one of my classes we have a field trip scheduled already. The art department is definitely trying to incorporate the space into our classes. It’s great for art students,” Cortez said.

 Packed with lively students, the museum felt just that — alive. As a multi-dimensional space with various platforms for people to engage with and even create art, the BAMPFA has re-announced itself as a relevant and exciting space for college students. Plus, it features gorgeous, bright study rooms in one corner of the building.

One can only hope that the BAMPFA continues to develop into a social hub as much as it is an educational one. The success of last Friday night, rather than lying in the free pizza or photobooth, was in its pure charm of existence. Between the crisp, swanky aesthetic of the new building and its marvelously diverse, curious collection, the museum is the perfect place for hosting a party. The only issue? Bad cell reception downstairs.

As the event drew to a close, scores of people were still waiting outside to get in. An older gentleman approached the entrance and, in a kind, curious and heavy Scottish accent, he asked what was going on in there. “It was the opening of the art museum,” a bystander explained. He smiled.
“Good! We always need more art!” He ambled off into the night. It was drizzling again, and the line stretched on.

Contact Sarah Goldwasser at [email protected].