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#SeeingtheBarnes

About the Campaign

Discover why after every visit, you’ll never stop seeing the Barnes.

With thousands of diverse works arranged without labels or categories, the Barnes invites you to think for yourself, make surprising connections, and speak art’s universal language. We've invited community partners to participate in our #SeeingtheBarnes campaign by selecting a painting from the Barnes collection that speaks to them.

Meet Madhu

Madhusmita Bora is codirector of Philadelphia’s Sattriya Dance Company. Sattriya is a 500-year-old dance tradition that originated in the Hindu monasteries of Assam, India. Since 2009, Madhu has performed this dance, which she says was “hidden from the world for a very long time,” for audiences throughout the US and India, and in London and Mexico.

As a community partner, Madhu has brought the Sattriya tradition to programs like Barnes Takeover and Barnes Jawn(t). “Our mission has been to make Sattriya relevant to the contemporary audience, connecting people to the stories of Krishna,” says Madhu. Drawing from Dr. Barnes’s universal approach to seeing art, she developed performances and gallery tours inspired by the collection.

She sees many parallels between the art education philosophy of Dr. Albert Barnes and the work of Srimanta Sankardev, the “15th-century Renaissance man” who created Sattriya. Like Dr. Barnes, who made his paintings available to his factory workers, Sankardev turned Hindu scriptures into a form more accessible to the common people.

When asked to select paintings that spoke to her, Madhu picked portraits whose eyes had “the spark of life.” In Glackens’s Armenian Girl, she was drawn to a face that stood out in a collection of mostly white European people. She also picked Child Holding Fruit by an unidentified artist, Before the Bath by Renoir, and Mr. Loulou by Gauguin, for their sense of vulnerability. As an artist who puts herself out there on stage, Madhu confides that “Sattriya teaches you to make yourself vulnerable to the divine.”

When she’s not on stage, Madhu is in the classroom teaching world literature and writing at Lincoln University.

How We Did It

See how we paired Madhu’s image with her chosen artwork.

Madhu displays her chosen works: Armenian Girl by Glackens, Mr. Loulou by Gauguin, Child Holding Fruit by an unidentified artist, and Before the Bath by Renoir.

Paul Gauguin. Mr. Loulou (Louis Le Ray), 1890. BF589. Public Domain.

Madhu has brought the Sattriya tradition to the Barnes through inventive programs.

The final ad pairing Madhu with Gauguin’s painting Mr. Loulou.

Meet Tony

Renowned vibraphonist and educator Tony Miceli has been a frequent headliner at First Friday! programs at the Barnes since its opening celebration in 2012.

“A museum can bring people together,” notes Tony, as he recalls one of his Barnes performances, which paid tribute to Philly jazz legend Grover Washington, Jr. Energized by art and music, this First Friday! event drew an enthusiastic audience that reflected Philadelphia’s diversity.

When asked to explain his chosen portraits from the Barnes collection, Tony replied, “Whenever I look at paintings, I see stories.” Child Holding Fruit, a painting by an unidentified artist, reminded him of family life, and in Glackens’s Self Portrait, he imagined a “shady” character. Van Gogh’s The Smoker brought to mind his work in migrant education throughout the 1980s and ‘90s. For Tony, The Smoker was reminiscent of the “humble and hardworking” people he met in mushroom fields. The painting brought him back to that time when he played and wrote music with their children.

How We Did It

See how we paired Tony’s image with his chosen artwork.

Tony performs at a First Friday! at the Barnes.

Vincent van Gogh. The Smoker, 1888. BF119. Public Domain.

Tony displays his chosen works: The Smoker by Van Gogh, Self-Portrait by Glackens, and Child Holding Fruit by an unidentified artist.

The final ad pairing Tony with Van Gogh’s painting The Smoker.

More Community Partners

Meet our partners who have participated in the campaign so far.