DIA exhibit engages all five senses
BY ALEXUS BOMAR
OU News Bureau
Museums, galleries and other cultural institutions have helped bring positive vibes to the city of Detroit.
According to Trip Advisor, there are 23 museums in Detroit, with the Detroit Institute of Arts being No. 1. Time suggest that people start their Detroit tour at the DIA because it’s the “city’s crown jewel.”
The newest exhibit at the DIA shows why it has become one of the best museums in the United States.
Bitter|Sweet: Coffee, Tea & Chocolate is the newest and first exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts to engage all five senses.
While visitors view approximately 70 works of art, they can touch, hear, smell and taste coffee, chocolate and tea-related beverages.
“Everyone loves coffee and chocolate,” visitor Laurisa Sinsabaugh of Rochester said.
Most of the pieces in the exhibit are from the museum’s holdings in pre-1850 European silver and ceramics. The institute’s prints, paintings and sculptures relating to the arrival and impact of beverages in Europe help to create new contexts and connections for objects from the permanent collection.
“A curator in the department knew about the different objects at the DIA that were related to this idea,” said Pamela Marcil, the institute’s public relations director.
Yao-Fen You, curator for this exhibit, is the associate curator of European sculpture and decorative arts.
At the exhibit, visitors are greeted with a brief explanation of how coffee, tea, chocolate and their international connections sparked new artistic adaptations, styles and global economies.
The first part of this exhibition focuses on coffee and how it was imported from Africa through the Middle East. Within this portion are pieces of coffee pots, coffee sets and an interaction piece in which visitors can smell freshly ground coffee beans.
The next stop is “A Taste for Tea,” which focuses on how tea was first cultivated in China. Later, Dutch and Portuguese merchants brought the first shipments of tea leaves to Europe in the 1600s.
Because of the merchants, the European public became fascinated by the taste of tea and realized tea was bigger than other Chinese imports, such as porcelain. The public wanted to learn more about the forms of European drink ware.
Marcil’s favorite piece, located in this part of the exhibit, is “Tea and Coffee Service” because of its unique style and its honeycomb pattern.
The last stop before the tasting station is “The Craze for Chocolate.” Visitors learn about how chocolate is made from fresh cocoa beans and how the Mayans and Aztecs were among the first to turn the beans into a drink. Visitors can shake a cocoa pod to hear the sound of the cocoa beans.
Before exiting, visitors can “taste the story” of chocolate by tasting two versions of hot chocolate: Aztec recipe and 18th century French recipe.
“It was nice to learn about how important hot chocolate was back then and how big it is now,” said Shaina Ferrell of Detroit. Ferrell works at the tasting station at the end of the exhibit.
The last thing visitors see is a quote about the world in a cup and how every cup of coffee, tea and chocolate tells a story:
“A global story… both bitter and sweet, of vessels adapted and transformed, of economic systems built on power and subjugation, of identity, both self-defined and imposed, of traditions shared across time and place. Perhaps there has never been anything simple about a cup of coffee, tea, or chocolate.”
“We’re both big coffee and tea drinkers,” said Francis Mazureki of Royal Oak, who was there with her mother, Diane. “ We think the history aspect of it is intriguing.”
Marcil said the institute has received positive feedback, comments and reactions via comment cards. The exhibit runs until March 5.
“We came to this exhibit to spend some together, we love the museum and we thought this would be an interesting subject,” said Cathy Seltz of Waterford.
Visitors are encouraged to take photos, bring friends and to use #SipTheStory on Instagram to show how they drink coffee and tea.
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