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Harn hosts event for Museum Nights: Africa Everywhere

The entrance to the Posing Beauty in African American Culture Exhibition as people enjoy the surrounding artwork. (Arianna Allen/ WUFT News)
The entrance to the Posing Beauty in African American Culture Exhibition as people enjoy the surrounding artwork. (Arianna Allen/ WUFT News)

Alex Febles has been intrigued by the art of storytelling, so much so that he began his college career at the University of Florida as a journalism major, hoping to tell the stories of others.

Soon after, he discovered a desire to relay his personal stories to the world through art, ultimately switching to be a digital arts and sciences major.

“It’s just something like a childhood thing that I’ve just carried through the storytelling through art,” Febles said. “It’s just something I did as a kid and now I am doing it here.”

Febles found himself on Thursday along with over 1,061 other people gathered at the Harn Museum of Art for the Museum Nights: Africa Everywhere event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. being inspired by the artwork of other artists.

Different stories from different people filled the walls of the museum.

Families, friends and art lovers of diverse backgrounds came together to experience the newest exhibit at the Harn Museum named "Posing Beauty in African American Culture," a national traveling art exhibit that has existed for 20 years. This exhibit will be at the Harn until June 4, 2023.

There were little children in attendance as well as teenagers up to older couples with different backgrounds, upbringings and experiences.

As someone who has come to previous Museum Night events at the Harn Museum, Brittany Days made it a point to comment on the diversity of the crowd.

"They definitely have a diverse crowd which is always good for these types of events," Days said.

The audience seemed unified with joy and wonder inside the Harn. This was a time for exploration, learning and deeper understanding of over 100 pieces diving deeper into the stories of the 45 artists and photographers that are represented at the exhibition, according to the website.

Walking from wall to wall, Susie Collins, a Miami native who now resides in Gainesville, sat and looked at various pieces of artwork in awe of the beauty. Taking in every detail while examining the piece.

“The art brought me here,” Collins said.

As for many of those in attendance, the art did bring them there, in addition to celebrating Black History Month.

Allysa Peyton, the student engagement manager for the Harn Museum, highlighted how this exhibit could contribute to the city.

"The connection that we made was with the center for African studies because the work in this exhibition focuses on Black beauty and African American art and culture," Peyton said. "And we wanted to extend that to thinking about the Center for African Studies here at UF and all of the wonderful things that they do on campus."

While the audience had the opportunity to explore the "Posing Beauty" exhibition, there were also guided tours of various exhibits throughout the museum by volunteer tour guides.

In addition, guests had the opportunity to indulge in some snacks and partake in hands-on art activities such as drawing from still life. Guests also gathered together to listen to the live music and gaze at dances performed by the UF AfroPop Ensemble and UF Agbedidi.

Peyton recognizes the way that interactive events might shape a viewer's diverse experience within an art museum.

“People might get a sense or have a takeaway that museums are really a fun, engaging place to be,” she said. “That there can not only be visual arts but performing arts, it can be a place to socialize and meet up with friends and we really like to put them on for not only our students but for all of our community.”

By the end of the night, the empty floor just before entering the exhibition was filled with audience members dancing with one another, sharing laughs and exchanging conversation to the rhythm of the music.

Dionne Champion, a research assistant professor at UF and dancer with the UF Agbedidi, could feel the electric energy of the crowd.

“You can feel the energy in there right now,” Champion said.

Chitra and Bob Pekala were one of the first audience members to join in the beat of the music as they kicked off their shoes and began dancing with one another.

“Music gets me moving,” Chitra said.

Art can move its audience in different ways. It holds powers and allows the individual to express emotion in motion.

The audience members had the opportunity to learn more about Black beauty, the history of African American art and contemporary African American art.

Arianna is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.