Almost ten years ago to the day, I graduated from UC Santa Cruz. More known for its radical politics and drug culture than academics*, Santa Cruz is not the most traditional of college campuses. This applies not only to its politics and choice of mascots (go banana slugs!), but to the physical layout of the campus itself; it's not what you see in college movies. Buildings sometimes resembling Soviet space bunkers hide amongst towering redwoods. In the morning, fog creeps down the bridge covered gullies and canyons, making it a magical walk to those 8 a.m. classes. It is the complete opposite of Stanford University.
The only Ivy League school on the West Coast, Stanford houses its high reaching academics in organized and well-maintained buildings with flat expansive green lawns. It's a beautiful campus, and one I had never been to in my twelve years living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Wanting to kill some time on Saturday afternoon, my boyfriend and I decided to visit the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in Palo Alto.
Any visit to the Cantor should start with a walk through the Rodin sculpture garden. The Rodin collection at Stanford University is one of the largest with two hundred pieces, twenty of which are bronze pieces hanging out outside. The centerpiece of the Rodin sculpture garden is the masterpiece The Gates of Hell, which Rodin needed two decades to complete.
The Cantor is home to a number of different collections: modern and contemporary, Oceania, Asia, Africa, and Native Americas are just a few. These collections mainly consist of objects such as masks, ceramics, and decorative objects, but there's also Japanese woodblock prints, paintings, and revolutionary-era China posters. We, unfortunately, did not have time to visit a large part of the museum because we arrived an hour before closing.
My favorites were the Papua New Guinean masks in the Oceania collection and the special exhibit, "The Wonder of Everyday Life: Dutch Golden Age Prints", which is going later this month. The masks are masterfully carved and just really cool looking (that's some astute art criticism there). The Dutch prints vividly capture the everyday happenings of Dutch life at the height of its economic power (tulips). I dream one day of collecting 17th-century prints: they're surprisingly realistic but always feel full of symbolism that I don't understand.
I look forward to going back and seeing more of the collections, as well as spend more time in the exhibits I already visited.
*UC Santa Cruz's identity as lacking in academics is incorrect. UCSC is ranked #30 for public schools and its graduate programs are some of the best in the country, particularly earth sciences, physics, and English.