Before the opening in August of the exhibit of ancient Nigerian art she curated for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Wabash Art Professor Elizabeth Morton hoped aloud that Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria would shatter museum-goers’ preconceived notions of African art.
Thursday night she gave members of the Wabash community a guided tour through those “treasures of the spirit” and may have simultaneously shattered preconceived notions of what a Wabash College alumni event can be.
Dynasty and Divinity: Ife Art in Ancient Nigeria is the largest and most inclusive display from the ancient spiritual home of Africa’s Yoruba people ever to tour the West. Well over 100 alumni and faculty and their families, staff members, students, and parents of current students attended the reception for Morton and the exhibit, an event sponsored by the Indianapolis Association of Wabash Men and organized by Morton and IAWM Board Member Brad Johnson ’71.
“This is a unique event for us,” Johnson said during opening remarks in the museum’s Fountain Room, acknowledging that the more than 120 confirmed guests on the RSVP list was more than twice what he’d originally expected. “Your response has been amazing.”
“This is one of the largest receptions the IAWM has ever had,” IAWM President Jon Pactor ’71 said. “We celebrating not only this exhibit of African art, but all these Wabash connections.”
President Pat White agreed: “This is a wonderful event because it brings together so many different constituencies of the College to celebrate the College’ s excellence. We celebrate the extraordinary work of Dr. Elizabeth Morton, the experience, energy, scholarship and scholarship she brings to us on campus, but also her work as a public intellectual, bringing that same energy, knowledge and scholarship to the rest of the world.”
Johnson thanked the many Wabash professors and their family members for coming from Crawfordsville for the event, and President White asked for a show of hands from parents of current students.
“A few weeks ago on Freshman Saturday I told parents that when you send your son to Wabash, you won’t lose a son; you’ll gain a College,” White said. “This night is emblematic of that fact. You are part of Wabash College—thank you so much for coming.”
Professor Morton spoke of the students who worked with her preparing the exhibit, recommending the “ipod” audio-video tour viewers can carry with them and which features the voices of Michael Brown ’13, Luke Robbins ’11, Adam Phipps ’11, and Wabash Theatre Professor Jim Cherry. She noted that recent graduates Ian Starnes ’11, Eric Brown ’11, and Drew Palmer ’11 had also worked on the project. Then she led the gathering to the gallery.
Walking through the exhibit with his youngest daughter, Abby, Dr. Bob Einterz ’77 said he was particularly grateful that the invitation included children. There were many in attendance, from toddlers to teens. And learning that Thursday was also the birthday of Professor Mark Brouwer’s daughter, Isabelle, Professor Morton surprised her with cupcake as all those in attendance sang “Happy Birthday.”
“This event is the sort of thing that’s unique to Wabash,” Professor Morton said as guests began to make their way to the exits at 9 p.m. “Where else would you find so many faculty colleagues, their kids, alumni, students, parents, all coming together to support an event like this.”