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New Ackland Art Museum encourages student engagement with French art

The Ackland Art Museum’s newest exhibition, opening Friday, will allow students to engage with the genius and grace of some of France’s most prolific artists.

The exhibition, titled “Genius and Grace: Francois Boucher and the Generation of 1700” features 80 master drawings by 27 master French artists. The Ackland is one of only two venues in the United States to showcase this rare, private collection.

Peter Nisbet, the Ackland’s interim director and chief curator, said the exhibition might change some people’s interpretation of drawing.

“What I think is incredible about this show for a range of people is just that it is an astounding presentation about the power of drawing,” he said.

At the museum, students can engage with the art and culture of France through various programs. There will be a risque film series, a drawing station with nontraditional tools, a chance to paint a nude model and a full day of activities to celebrate art, romance and France.

Emily Bowles, director of communications for the Ackland, said the exhibition’s programs present great opportunities for students.

“The various programs allow people to try programs that are different, that people don’t usually get to do,” Bowles said. “The interactive shows are a great way to engage with the art and put yourself in the artist’s place.”

During the exhibition, the Ackland will host a film series titled “Rated Art” that will show many R-rated films set in 18th-century France.

Allison Portnow, Ackland public programs manager, said the movies were selected because they attract viewers even in contemporary times.

“Why is it that we, in the late 20th century and early 21st century, as filmmakers and viewers are titillated by (the artistry) when we look back about 300 years in the past?” Portnow said. “These movies allow us to see why.”

Nisbet echoed the idea that 18th-century France is viewed in a certain light, and the exhibition conceptualizes that idea.

“Eighteenth century France has a reputation for a certain gentle eroticism, and a certain playfulness, and that is definitely part of what’s in the exhibition,” he said.

The programs also include a drawing room where students will test their drawing abilities through media, such as Etch-a-Sketches, chalk, iPads and more.

“The drawing station allows you to try your hand at not only the traditional, but the contemporary mediums of drawing as well,” Bowles said.

Students can experience the playfulness and romance of France on Feb. 14 in the “Dawn ‘til Dusk Community Day: Jour d’Amour.”

The day of love will include events for people of all ages. There will be drawing workshops for tweens, teens and adults and a workshop for couples to draw each other’s portraits.

Many of the programs stem from themes touched upon in the artists’ drawings.

“We hope to reintroduce the possibilities that drawing can offer,” Nisbet said.

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