Kendra Lyimo, an art history major who worked at the former Snite Museum and now works in the new Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, was overjoyed that so many of her fellow students showed up Thursday night for a sneak preview of the art and exhibition space she knows so well.

Many of the students attending hailed from majors far from art history, ranging from aerospace engineering to biology, and from theology to a math doctorate. It didn’t hurt to offer the visitors food and swag, T-shirts or tote bags that were screen-printed with an artistic logo on site by Brent Lacy of South Bend Print Shop.

Lyimo, who works as a gallery teacher with curator Jared Katz, showed two friends one of her favorite pieces, a contemporary sculpture called Earth Boy by British Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare that combines traditional cloth and patterns with a head that’s a globe on fire.

Four students stand in the middle of the Queen of Families Chapel looking up at the decorated ceiling. Three students standing by the sculpture Earth Boy by British Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. A small bronze statue with a blurred female behind it.
Notre Dame students get a sneak preview of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art, including the Mary, Queen of Families Chapel, on the night before the grand opening in December.

“It’s just a much bigger space and it’s a lot more accessible to students, which is really exciting,” Lyimo said. “And there’s a lot of different works that are on view that weren’t previously, and there’s definitely a greater emphasis on bringing contemporary voices and contemporary stories into the space, which I think is really incredible.”

The grand opening of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art took place last weekend, December 1–3. Its collection of more than 30,000 works is considered one of the oldest and finest at American universities.

Juliet Hall, a senior from Colorado Springs in the Program of Liberal Studies and theology, said she grew up going to art museums with her family, and her mother made sure she went to the Snite. She was excited to see the new space, where students can see “art as it’s meant to be experienced—in person.”

“This seems like a very legitimate museum,” Hall said. “The art I have seen, I’m just so impressed that we even have this art, that Notre Dame has access to this art. It’s incredible.”

Three masks in the The Brenden and Marcia Beck Family Gallery
African Art pieces displayed in the Brenden and Marcia Beck Family Gallery.
Four gray statues behind a display case.
Duality is represented in Mesoamerican pieces of the Indigenous Art of the Americas Gallery.

Samuel Holst, a sophomore from Juneau, Alaska, studying mechanical engineering, said he appreciated the sneak peek but planned to come back again because it’s a lot to take in.

“I’m not really much of an art connoisseur, but I guess just sitting in silence and just appreciating the magnificence of somebody’s work—it always kind of takes your breath away,” he said.

Megan Corrigan, a senior from North Carolina agreed. She studies aerospace engineering and said the art offers a difference learning experience than lectures.

“I love art. I’m very interested in it,” Corrigan said. “I haven’t taken any classes in it, but I love going to art museums; it’s very calming. I do enough math every day, so this is kind of the relaxation and rest””

Hari Rau-Murthy, a math doctoral student from New York, said he grew up going to art museums and appreciates when different voices are heard.

“I’m really happy that there’s a recognition of the Indigenous art, that there’s a lot of it in the area,” he said. “There’s a Native American reservation 30 minutes north of here, and it’s one of the few areas where the language is very much alive.”

Maria Keller, a theology graduate student from Minneapolis, said she liked going to the Snite but found more to explore in the new museum. She loved the sculpture court and, of course, the religious paintings.

“I think there are certain things that can only be expressed artistically or can be best expressed artistically,” Keller said. “So I think universities in their search for truth really need to have a place to go and contemplate art in order to kind of use and be in dialogue with art and the artistic world as another source of truth.”

Four students stand against a purple backdrop holding empty picture frames around their faces.
Notre Dame students Meghan Dunne, Analina Barnes, Colleen Mackin, and Bridget Stockrahm frame themselves on the second floor of the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art during the student sneak preview.

Join the Notre Dame Stories Mailing List

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and never miss out on the latest features.