Too “Cool” for School: The Addison Goes Mod

This past Saturday night, Andover students were transported from snowy, present-day New England to sunny 1950’s California at the Addison Gallery’s “Birth of the Cool” party. The Addison got a swanky flashback with the Saturday night party, complete with deserts, mocktails, live performances, swing dancing, outfits of bold prints, large patterns and bright colors. The air of casual sophistication was unique among on-campus events. Emcee Thor Shannon ’08 said: “We don’t really get to have this type of vibe on campus… it’s something I’m really glad a lot of people could see.” The event, organized by the Addison’s Director of Education Julie Bernson and Jacqueline Hall ’08, was unprecedented in its creativity. It was the first student-organized party in the Addison Gallery, and it was an event where students could gather and discuss art or just have fun. With its themed dress code, the “Birth of the Cool” party atmosphere allowed students to step outside their normal personas and portray a different character. According to Bernson, it was an event “for the students, by the students,” an attempt made by the Addison to reach out and appeal to a wider audience. The Gallery’s bold move succeeded in attracting unlikely museum-goers. “I think [the party was] a great initiative,” said Maria Ferris ’09. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have come to the exposition. Since it was on a Saturday, I had more time.” Initially, the event organizers wanted to enhance the party’s artistic atmosphere with student acts that reflected the time period. However, they soon realized that merely having acts that incorporated different art forms, which featured video clips, paintings, architecture and music, would contribute to the exhibit. Students performed in the Kemper Gallery, a room displaying geometrically-themed Karl Benjamin and John McLaughlin paintings. Max Meyer ’08, who was asked to play jazz music to enhance the cool atmosphere, performed songs from the “cool era” of the 50s and 60s and revamped classic rock. He said, “The Addison was a difficult venue to perform in…it was different—the echoes created the cool reverb effect of a big hall and had the intimate effect of a small hall.” Tessa Pompa ’08, Hank Williams ’08 and Elise DiBeradino ’09 joined him with a new take on the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” and the blues classic “Fever.” It took some time for Azure to get accustomed to the new environment in the beginning, but with enthusiastic audience support, they quickly grew comfortable singing pieces such as Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” and Frou Frou’s “Hear Me Out.” Azure member Tavie Abell ’10 said, “This exhibit has so much energy, and we tried to choose a song that reflected that.” The subsequent fashion show featured many different takes on the “mod” look. In the end, Farah Dahya ’08, who admtted to Googling mod and borrowing some pieces of her outfit, won the costume contest, recieving a $40 iTunes gift certificate and the Birth of Cool CD. The Yorkies performed old hits including “Jessie’s Girl” and “That Thing You Do,” a Grasshopper Night favorite. They were already pros at performing in the Addison. “We usually have a Yorkies performance to ourselves—I liked how people dressed up and dressed classy for this one,” said Chip Schroeder ’08, co-head of Yorkies. Meyer said, “I was talking to one of the workers here, and we should have more things like this… it’s a change from working in the library or slaving away at our homework…[The party] caters to all senses—between seeing the art and feeling and hearing the music, feeling the bass inside…It’s really a cool experience.” The night was certainly a great change from the usual campus weekend activities—a chance for the Addison Gallery to broaden its on-campus fan base and a chance for students to appreciate the art that is so close but sometimes feels inaccessible. Student president Tantum Collins ’08 said, “The Addison is an incredible resource that, with such busy schedules, students don’t really get the opportunity to come to. [The party] was a good catalyst to get students more involved in an institution that has importance on a national and even global level.”