This ain’t yo’ mama’s Crocker

Hip-hop: This dark diction has become America’s addiction, at least according to Kanye West. However, if you ask the Crocker Art Museum, hip-hop—along with punk rock and fashion—is just what’s needed to lure a new generation of art admirers. The monthly multimedia Crocker Contemporaries event series highlights modern cultural influences in art and society, and if the turnout at last week’s Contemporaries kickoff party was any indication, the series should have a good summer.

The ballroom was filled with guests, many of them hungry for a taste of what the museum would offer in coming months (namely, forum discussions on the last Thursday of each month, with film screenings on the following Saturday; fashion is the subject for July, punk for August, and hip-hop for September). Augmenting the fine art already on display, the kickoff party mixed it up with a Sid and Nancy screening, concert footage of Jay-Z, a live DJ and craft stations for making your own punk-styled buttons or writing your own raps.

Perhaps the strangest sight was the quintet of break-dancers who spent the evening twirling below the ballroom’s high ceiling. Easily the center of attention throughout the evening, they passed the hours busting moves in front of a revolving crowd. Though most of these boys had never performed in such a venue, the opportunity was well-received.

“I took a field trip here in fourth grade. I thought it was going to be cool, but it was just really quiet,” said breaker Sam Niver, 15. “I thought if only we could spice it up, that’d be cool!”

The spicing up seemed to work. An eclectic crowd mingled through the vast, music-filled room, inevitably wandering away from the party before long and out into the museum’s galleries. In no time, the khakis and cufflinks stood side by side with the ripped jeans and peek-a-boo camouflage panties, their inhabitants both questioning the physics of M.C. Escher’s “Ascend Descend.” Some may have come for the party, but many stayed for the museum.

Erica Wall, the Crocker’s director of education, was among the many enthusiastic employees and volunteers working the room. “It’s really great to see a room full of people,” she said. “A lot of new people, a lot of people under 40.”

While wine was served in the absence of Hypnotiq, and no impromptu, trash-can-kicking fights broke out, it was evident that the Crocker had taken its first steps toward attracting a new breed of aesthetics enthusiasts. With the success of the Escher exhibit (which has already proven at least well-liked enough for someone to have stolen the exhibit banners hanging outside the museum), it’s safe to say that the party’s popularity was not a fluke. New eyes have finally taken notice of the Crocker’s potential as something more than merely a grade-school field-trip destination that’s “just really quiet.”

This story has been corrected from its original print version.