While pausing to reflect upon the wire tree she has almost finished sculpting, Ladaijah Moore exclaimed, “Boom, yes! Let me take a picture of this.”
Moore is a regular participant in the UM Museum’s monthly Milkshake Mash-ups event, at which local middle and high school students come to the on-campus museum to drink milkshakes and work on art projects.
“Milkshake (Mash-ups are) a way that I can express myself through art,” Moore said.
The program, which is in its third year, is free to any student, grades six through 12, and occurs from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on the first Monday of every month. Emily McCauley, curator of education for the UM Museum, said that after the event’s first year, the museum partnered with the Boys and Girls Club to garner a steadier audience.
Reed Ashton Kevin, a museum intern who helps lead the events, said that she values the way Milkshake Mash-ups expose students to art that they might not have otherwise learned about, as the program usually focuses on the traveling exhibits or those of modern artists that usually wouldn’t be covered in traditional art history classes.
“Milkshake Mash-ups introduce teenagers to different artists,” Kevin said. “(The events) give (teenagers) an ability to put what they observed into their own hands and (to) create freely.”
When students arrive at the museum, they first select their milkshake toppings. While a museum intern prepares the shakes, students free sketch and tour the gallery. They then proceed to the exhibits of the two artists that they will be “mashing up” and are asked to share their thoughts, before returning to the classroom to complete their projects.
“We usually try to show the kids something new,” McCauley said. “A lot of kids have been coming (to) every Milkshake Mash-up, so we especially rely on our special exhibits.”
This month’s mash-up focused on sculptor George Tobolowsky and Marty Vinograd, an artist best known for her collages. After viewing the exhibits, 16 students began sculpting trees from silver wire, brightly colored pipe cleaners and foam pieces. As they twisted and bent the wire, some students curled them around their hands to create a broader form, while others twirled them together to create long, spindly branches.
McCauley said the Milkshake Mash-ups series began as a way to keep older students engaged with the UM Museum, as most of its programming is focused toward younger children. She said museum staff knew that creating a program for high school students was risky, as older students are often involved in a number of other activities. This led to the addition of the milkshakes as a fun way to draw in students.
Anyanna Gordon, another regular participant, said she appreciates the opportunity to learn about art but that her favorite part of Milkshake Mash-ups is certainly the milkshakes.
According to McCauley, the program works to advance the UM Museum’s goals of making the museum accessible and fun for the community, particularly by encouraging repeat visits. It also connects the University of Mississippi with the larger community, as the events are always co-led by student interns, who are usually education or art majors.