The Triton Museum (tritonmuseum.org) is rapidly becoming a center for more than visual art, putting the museum in the forefront of one of the most important trends in the arts world today: the marriage of visual and performing arts in museum spaces.
From Philadelphia to Palm Springs and everywhere in between, art museums are regularly hosting performance series of every type–music, dance, film, poetry, multimedia shows, interactive workshops.
New York’s venerable Metropolitan Museum’s MetLiveArts series regularly features world premiers and specially-commissioned works. Grand Rapids Art Museum presents a chamber music concert every Sunday afternoon from September through March. The Dallas Museum of Art offers several performances every week, and sometimes two in the same day.
San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum holds Friday night after-hours “happenings” that can include music, dance, theater, film screenings, panel discussions, lectures, artist demonstrations and special exhibition tours –along with a special Friday Night menu at the café and specialty cocktails. The Philadelphia Museum of Art makes every Friday night a party with live music, cocktails and tapas.
The Triton has offered outdoor performances in the past–the Blues Bash, Midsummer Arts Faire–and in 2015 brought performances indoors with Night@Triton and Triton Free Fridays. In 2016, the Triton acquired a piano with the help of pianist Tamami Honma and the generosity of local music lovers, which included a $1,200 personal donation from State Assemblyman Kansen Chu and his wife Daisy.
That enabled the launch of Sunday Gallery with the Cal Arte Ensemble, a classical chamber music series that combines popular works like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to less familiar masterpieces such as those by mid-20th century Chinese composer Ma Sicong–renowned in China as the “King of Violinists” until the Cultural Revolution forced him to flee China.
Last year Honma and violinist Julian Brown presented their Beethoven Odyssey series, featuring all of Beethoven’s sonatas for violin and piano and a selection of the composer’s solo piano sonatas. On May 15, the ensemble expanded their forces to include wind instruments for Franz Schubert’s rarely-performed Octet in F Major (1824).
In January, the Triton launched Sounds@Triton, featuring eclectic musical performances combining classical and contemporary sounds.
The most recent Sounds performance was the Apr. 30 performance by the South Bay Guitar Society’s innovative Night Owl Quartet (sbgs.org), courtesy of a grant from SVCreates (www.svcreates.org). These four versatile young musicians presented an afternoon of acoustic guitar music that spanned guitar arrangements of orchestral classics to contemporary compositions and original works by the quartet’s members.
The Triton’s intimacy allows audiences to engage with chamber music in the kind of space the music was written for and makes for a two-way performance experience.
Performers can talk about the works and demonstrate interesting features. They can answer questions and even take requests from audience members. People can move around, enjoying the music selectively or listening from different galleries. This makes concert experiences more like visual art experiences–and popular music concerts–and less like the stifling decorum of a concert hall.
Just as important as the Triton’s ambience is the museum’s central location and accessibility.
With ample free parking onsite and an obstacle-free path through the museum, the Triton is easily accessible to those with limited mobility as well as parents with young children. And with performances that are free or pay-what-you-can, the Triton’s musical series make live performances and musical masterpieces accessible to everyone.
Bringing performances to art museums benefits everyone. “The concerts have increased Triton membership as well as our visibility in the community,” said Triton Executive Director Jill Meyers. “They’re key to the Triton’s vital role as a community resource and a natural gathering place. Studies have shown that when arts bring people into a community there’s an economic impact–they tend to spend money while they’re there.
“The concerts are accessible to everyone,” Mayers continued. “People have opportunities to hear great music and performers have opportunities to perform and build a following. It makes a lot of sense to have concerts in an art museum because we all live together in the same community. Arts shouldn’t be ‘siloed.’ Creativity thrives on interconnectedness.”
All in all, it looks like people agree. The Triton’s concerts have been well attended and are usually standing room only.