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WAM Updates are short, informal posts that put the spotlight on small, but exciting, Museum-related projects, such as the addition of a new painting or sculpture to a gallery. They also serve as updates on staff, new services or programs, and other WAM news.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Works of art remind me of home

My wife has been an artist her whole life. She is an oil painter and art teacher, who can recite the names of all of the greats. When I first met her, she was a student in Art College in Calcutta. We moved to the United States together with big dreams. We were excited at the prospect of a country filled with opportunity and promise. We got married and a few years later, we had our first child. A baby girl. In 1984, we packed up what we had and moved to Worcester, Massachusetts with that three-month old baby. We had both immigrated to the United States just a few years before. Everything felt new. There was so much about the United States that I had not learned yet. When we first came to Worcester, so many things still needed translation--words, customs and traditions.
Even with all of the newness, the thing that always felt familiar to us was art. It spoke all languages. We could look at a painting and feel its message, with no need for explanation. No worry about choosing the right word, or understanding its tone. Art made us feel like we were a part of this new place. It was something that was natural in a land where everything else needed to be learned. There was something here we already understood.
Today, my family has been in Worcester for over thirty-four years. I know all of the roads by heart. It is truly my home. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for years while we raised our two children, while my wife taught art and always stayed close to it. When it became time for me to retire, I wanted to return to the place that had made me feel welcome when I was a stranger in a new place. I now spend several hours a week at the WAM. It’s the perfect part-time job for a retiree. I learn about the paintings and exhibits, and get to watch new faces feel what this place has always made me feel. 

There is so much that I would like to share with someone who is considering visiting the Worcester Art Museum. I am no docent, but nothing makes me happier than sharing the things I have learned from the visiting speakers and brilliant staff here at the Museum. 

One of my favorite things about WAM is the rich collection of Asian art. It is incredible to see the long history of my people represented so many miles from home. Much of this began with Ananda Coomaraswamy, who began bringing Indian art to this area in the early 1900s. Today, Vivian Li, associate curator of Asian art and global contemporary art, carries on that tradition. There are two upcoming pieces I am especially looking forward to seeing on display. The first is A Vegetarian Lion, A Slippery Fish (2013) by Bharti Kher.  Kher was born in London and now lives and works in India. Her perspective is one that feels especially interesting to me, since her sense of both cultures have shaped who she has become and the art that she creates. 

It’s also special to see pieces of my childhood home make their way to WAM. The Museum plans to commission a decorative jhula from the Indian state of Gujarat that will one day be displayed in the Asian Art Gallery. The jhula is a porch swing with room for two. It reminds me of dusty summer days in India. These pieces, like me, are pieces of another world within this one. We bring our culture, traditions, and stories with us. 

To me, that is the beauty of this Museum. You can look at a piece and feel at home and like you are learning something new at the same time. I am proud to be a part of the fabric of the vibrant Worcester community, and even prouder to see not only my rich heritage and culture, but the culture and heritage of so many others, all on display in one place.

-Barin Bando, Guest Services Representative

(Originally from India, Barin Bando moved to Worcester in 1984.  A shorter version of this WAM Update appears in the Winter/Spring 2019 issue of access magazine.)

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