Harvard Art Museums’ Student Late Night brought more than 1,200 attendees through its doors.

Photo by Danny Hoshino

Arts & Culture

‘Late Night’ with Degas and van Gogh

Harvard Art Museums open to students for after-hours mingling among masterpieces

4 min read

Every year, on a night in September, hundreds of students pour into the Harvard Art Museums for the Student Late Night. Last week’s was the last I’ll attend as an undergrad, and in my list of remarkable Harvard experiences, this event is one I’ll miss the most.

Student Late Nights are a chance to mingle with Degas, Pollack, or other students, all while sipping brightly colored mocktails and nibbling sweet snacks. The intimate visit highlights the unique access Harvard students have to the museums’ premier art collection — access that includes opportunities to listen in on artist talks or even, as I did, rent a signed Warhol print for their bedroom.

The intimate visit highlights the unique access Harvard students have to the museums’ premier art collection. Photo by Danny Hoshino

This year, as more than 1,200 students strolled the Renzo Piano-designed building on Quincy Street, Ejin Jeong ’22 spent part of the evening looking at one of Degas’ ballerinas.

“The last time I saw one of those was at a museum in Chicago,” Jeong said. “Coming to this event made me love Harvard more and think, ‘Wow, it’s a real privilege to go here.’”

“It’s an incredible privilege to be so close to this space,” agreed Mahnoor Ali ’19. “Close to this space of creativity, of the culture archive that stands so close to our dorm. To come from a suburb in California, where it’s an hour’s drive to a museum, to a place where I could in an instant surround myself with art, is such an amazing revelation that occurred to me my freshman year.”

The Late Nights are meant to jumpstart the student-museum relationship by letting students know all the ways they can get involved in the museums. Ali, for instance, is a tour guide, and has spent a considerable amount of her Harvard career at the museums.

While attending Late Night, Ezra Lebovitz ’22 takes the opportunity to pose with Renée Sintenis’ “Daphne” as fellow student Rachel Chen looks on.

Photo by Danny Hoshino

“One of my dreams for Harvard’s future is for students to feel like not stepping into the museum on a regular basis is a waste of this amazing resource,” she said. “There’s a van Gogh just down the street, go see it! Student Late Night is great event because it brings students who may not normally be at the museum into the museum.”

Maia Suazo-Maler, a senior concentrating in history of art and architecture, got involved by curating some of the pieces on view last week. After taking a neuroaesthetics class this past fall, she worked with Professor Nancy Etcoff to select objects to display in the University Teaching Gallery this semester as the course runs again.

“It was cool to have the opportunity to not only select the works but also orient them within the space, and have a go at creating a small narrative and trying my hand at curation,” said Suazo-Maler.

Rebecca Dolan
Rebecca Dolan ’19 (right) says of her many student experiences, the one event she will miss the most is Student Late Night. Photo by Danny Hoshino

Student Late Night had made a strong impression on Suazo-Maler from her first semester at Harvard.

“As a freshman, I remember being a little scared of the art museums. It was daunting — I didn’t know I was going to end up studying art history. To have an event like that that was very student-oriented was really welcoming and shows the students, ‘This place is for you.’

“If you don’t have time to go to the art museums because you’re an athlete or because of your class schedule, to have this Late Night opportunity really demonstrates how the Harvard Art Museums is catered toward the student as the first and foremost audience,” she said.

This porous boundary between student body and the Harvard Art Museums has given me some of my best memories as a student. Each of my years at Harvard has looked different: A new class enters, my dorm room changes, campus reinvents itself in some way. But Max Beckmann’s self-portrait has hung on the same wall of the museums since I was a freshman in 2015, and I can find the same sweeping views of Cambridge on the fourth floor.

And after I graduate, though I won’t be able to keep coming to Late Night, I know that there’s a chair in the Calderwood Courtyard open for me, and familiar works will continue to line the walls.

Rebecca Dolan is a Harvard senior concentrating in English.