When entering any museum, a hush typically fills the space as famous pieces of art occupy the expected silence. On Friday, March 24, on the bottom floor of the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College, this expected hush was replaced with a chatter of wonder from students, professors and art enthusiasts as the “Desires, Dreams, and Destinations” of Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) artists became the topic of discussion.
“This is a special curation of art by APIDA artists, [which is] something you rarely get to see in a lot of museums around the world,” Audrey Yung SC ’25, an attendee of the collection, said. “It’s nice to have this special little collection of the cool stuff that APIDA artists are doing.”
To allow for this representation to be on display, the Asian American Advisory Board collaborated with the Benton Museum to create a Salon Series that would give space to APIDA artists.
“The mission of the Asian American Advisory Board is to foster collaboration between and provide support for 7C APIDA affinity groups. I collaborated with the Benton on this Salon Series in order to showcase APIDA artists, who, alongside other minoritized and racialized artists, are often underrepresented and neglected in the art world,” Sydney Nemetz Sc`25, a AdBoard student coordinator, said. “Through this Salon Series, I hope to showcase the diversity of expression and creativity of APIDA artists and to create higher visibility for them within the art world and on campus.”
With around 20 pieces on display, a center table and surrounding wall ledges were intentionally used to create this visibility and show the past, present and future of APIDA art. An array of pieces were on display with large paintings, small wood carvings, photographs and even a small basket pulled from collections.
Corina Silverstein SC ’25 is one of the Benton After Hours interns involved with organizing and curating the event.
“People have conversations [and] experiences coming into the space. I think that’s something really beautiful to take away,” Silverstein said.
The small room was quickly filled with one of the largest turnouts for the Benton Salon series, according to Silverstein, with roughly 30 people wandering the space. The interest from students stemmed from a few reasons, and word about the event spread fast.
“[It was] really interesting to me as someone who is going into that field,” Sophie Beuman SC ’25, an attendee of the event, said.
For other students, the collection provided a chance to apply some of the knowledge from classes on campus.
“I’m taking drawing at Pomona, and … I thought it was kind of cool seeing that outside of the classroom, [and] being able to relate to that,” attendee Meelod Wahed PO ’25 said.
As a place for students to explore, the Benton Salon Series is meant to be formed through conversation and collaboration. This effect is present with students discussing these class applications and freely expressing their thoughts throughout the curation.
“The interactive component of asking questions, kind of getting our thoughts, felt very nice,” another student attendee, Josh Yum PO ’25, said.
Many others agreed that the discussions raised were helpful for those looking at the pieces. As a chance to say what they were thinking, the conversations allowed students to process the piece and listen to the thoughts of others.
“I thought that was actually really nice because I just got to say what I thought,” Wahed said.
This interactive flow changes common perceptions of the ways people can interact with art. Art is known for being subjective, and the “Salon Series” provides a chance to share the ways art can be interpreted.
Creating an intimate experience for anyone in the space, this conversational aspect allows for those in attendance to reflect with the community. As the experiences and skills of APIDA artists are on display, the series aimed to encourage its viewers to think intentionally throughout the curation.
“We started thinking … in conversation about dreams [and] destinations,” Silverstein said. “What are things that I envisioned and not envisioned in the works?”
Prompted with questions similar to this during the series, many were able to search for answers through art. This aspect hints at the overarching theme of the collection: a discussion about what has been missing from art narratives.
“I feel like this is a very intentional curation, honestly, and … for someone like me as an APIDA student, I think it’s super cool because you don’t see it very often,” Yung said. “So to have this space and such an intimate conversation is super cool.”
Bringing people together through conversation and curiosity, the “Salon Series” was a success to many in attendance. The series ended with a casual wine and cheese debrief period, which allowed those in attendance to draw artwork of their own.
Conversations about art and other aspects of life continued to flow, which created a unique community. Opening its doors to anyone interested, “Desires, Dreams, and Destinations” provided new insight into the wonders of the Benton Museum.
“[This collection] is really a reminder that anyone has access to the collections,” Silverstein said. “I think the whole thing about the curator or interns or whatever being the masters or the experts is not at all true. It’s all about collaboration.”