By Frances Thrush
The Dallas Contemporary has recently reported a strange occurrence. It started this past February when a young man wearing a sweatshirt that read “Groundhog 2011” began frequenting the museum. Initially, the museum staff members thought they were mistaken. A University of Dallas student — as he appeared to be — could not repeatedly be visiting the Contemporary. They decided to wait to see what happened. They prepared the docents by providing them with an extra strong background on the relevance, history, and philosophies behind every piece in the museum as they bided their time, waiting to be accosted by the university student who would undoubtedly shame them for their Contemporary collection.
Standing amidst Loris Gréaud’s installation of “The Unplayed Notes Museum,” the student wandered around the broken glass, the Angel pillars and the dark room lit by small LED lights as he nodded in a thoughtful stance of approval. Week after week the mysterious male student came, observed, nodded, sighed and sometimes smiled or even cried. The staff at the Contemporary were so perplexed that one day a brave employee dared to approach and ask if the student truly went to the University of Dallas.
The student stammered, well aware of the reputation of his fellow classmates. Too few of them knew of the beauty and philosophy behind Contemporary art, and even fewer dared set foot in the galleries and museums where such works were shown, let alone a place so brazenly called “The Dallas Contemporary.” He admitted to his affiliation with the university and immediately began stating examples of contemporary art around the UD campus. Though largely contested, these works, he explained, were created by students and maintained by the university itself. Afraid that he might scare him off, the employee left the student to himself and quickly and quietly sent out an email confirming the information.
The following Monday when the student came, the museum was crowded, but he managed to navigate with quite some space. It was not until he had been wandering for nearly an hour that he realized that the masses of people were not there to look at the art but rather to watch him look at the art. They were mesmerized as they watched him walk around the museum and react to the art. He began to look over his shoulder, and when he smiled the crowd hushed and watched intently. When he returned to the room with the broken frames and scattered glass, his heart broke immediately. As a tear rolled down his cheek the crowd collectively held its breath. The Contemporary staff members were so moved by the mysterious student that they sent an email to the University of Dallas art department later that evening, inviting all students and staff to the opening of the museum’s next show.
After that day, crowds came every Monday to watch the student. The crowds became so interested in the strange phenomena that news reporters began speculating on why this student was different. What kind of a life did he lead? Was he also a Liberal? The university, after getting word, scheduled a meeting with the student. Members of student life and the office of the Provost discussed the matter with the student, asking what he aimed to achieve by visiting the museum so frequently. They also asked him if he would be interested in teaching a course entitled “Contemporary Art Appreciation for Those With No Knowledge Of Contemporary Art,” to help diversify the student populace with the hope of attracting a “new wave” type of hipster to the student body. He declined to teach the course but continued to frequent the gallery.
Later, when the student was trying to enter the contemporary, a reporter confronted him and asked why he declined to teach the course. The student simply answered, “Excuse me, I just want to see the exhibit.”
The next day’s headlines read “A Man With No Pretentions, Just Wants To See The Exhibit.” Footage of the student was put on YouTube and seen by diplomats from around the globe. After the student received a presidential visit and engaged in a phone conversation with Putin, the world seemed to reach a peaceful balance, particularly while looking at contemporary art. New art initiatives started around the world, and a new version of competition was created. Nations dissolved their military budgets and focused on fostering the most complex or simplest contemporary artists possible. Each nation gave itself over completely to art.
One thing led to another and the student is now set to give a TED talk. He will also be hosted on Ellen, Oprah and EWTN to discuss the validity of the art exhibit he frequented so religiously. The student will graduate as an Economics major in the spring of 2015, and the university felt it was only fitting to give him an honorary art degree for his major contributions to the understanding of contemporary art in our current culture. Please be sure to shake his hand and thank him when you see him walking around our campus. He is the real American hero.