Hartford’s Renovated Wadsworth Atheneum Has Many Trinity Connections

Rave Reviews Are Calling Revamped Museum a “Masterpiece”


In top photo, above, Trip Slaymaker ’17 enters the
Wadsworth Atheneum’s Morgan Great Hall in coverage
published on the front page of
The Hartford Courant.

Hartford, CT, October 5, 2015 – The Wadsworth Atheneum – the country’s oldest art museum in continuous operation – is among Hartford’s most famous cultural treasures. The Atheneum has long been a magnet for Trinity College students, so it was only fitting that a photo of one of our students entering the  museum’s Morgan Great Hall was featured on the front page of The Hartford Courant on a recent Sunday, as the newspaper spotlighted the museum’s grand reopening after a five-year renovation and reinstallation of its European art collections.

The student photographed by The Courant was Trip Slaymaker ’18, who was visiting the Atheneum in advance of its official reopening to report his own  story about the revamped museum for The Trinity Tripod

The $33 million renovation, which has added 17 new galleries, makes a visit to the Wadsworth Atheneum even more of a not-to-be-missed experience than it already was. A review in The New York Times described the museum’s renovation as “a masterpiece,” noting that “Connecticut, its capital city and the Atheneum itself should be proud.” Among the more dramatic features is the floor-to-ceiling installation of works in the museum’s Morgan Great Hall, which, as described by Slaymaker in his Tripod article, “... rises breathtakingly up the entire expanse of the wall in the style of an eighteenth century Italian salon.”

Also excited about the museum’s grand reopening were staff members at Trinity’s Watkinson Library – the rare book and special collections library within the Raether Library and Information Technology Center – who loaned historic books to be included in the Atheneum’s Cabinet of Art & Curiosities collection. As detailed in a history of the Watkinson Library on Trinity’s website, the Wadsworth Atheneum was the original home of the Watkinson Library when it opened in 1866. It wasn’t until 1952 that the Watkinson relocated to Trinity’s campus and became part of the Trinity College Library system.

Among Trinity faculty, the Wadsworth Atheneum has proven to be an invaluable teaching resource, including for a first-year seminar titled “Art and Identity Politics,” taught by Erin Valentino, head librarian, research education. The course, for which Valentino received a Community Learning Initiative course development grant, asks students to consider ways in which contemporary art represents social markers of difference, such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.

Each student in Valentino’s course will select a work of art from the Atheneum’s modern and contemporary galleries around which to focus writing and presentation assignments throughout the semester, allowing students to observe a work of art critically over time. The students also will participate in the Atheneum’s “Second Saturdays” events, designing and leading an art activity to engage school-aged children in a fun learning experience. A complementary partnership with the Moylan Community Mentorship Program will leverage the Trinity first-year students’ contribution to the community, as they also will visit nearby Moylan elementary school to lead children in the art activity.

Trinity students and employees may attend the Wadsworth Atheneum free of charge with a Trinity ID. To plan a visit to the museum, click here.

Co-written by Bhumika Choudhary 18 and Kathy Andrews