Attending an art opening in the Lehman Art Center evokes very specific thoughts: Classical music, sparkling water and dainty appetizers, large canvases of stunning paintings. But not this week. The latest exhibit in the Lehman, Soccer Jerseys, features art of a different sort. A collection of vintage and more recent soccer jerseys loaned by soccer coach Dusty Richard and the Crump-Burbank family adorns the gallery walls, the bright colors and team logos artwork in and of themselves. The history and memories associated with the jerseys provide plenty of fodder for conversation.
“I was surprised,” Richard said, when he learned there would be a soccer jersey exhibit in the Lehman. “But it’s amazing to me how many kids have soccer jerseys. Even kids who don’t play soccer.”
Director of the Lehman Art Center Amy Graham said the idea for the exhibition came to her two years ago, when she spoke with Lehman board member Phil Isles '59, P'99. Isles encouraged her to think of ways to bring in people who wouldn’t necessarily attend an art exhibit. He also mentioned that he first became interested in art through soccer.
Graham had Richard, a local soccer celebrity, in mind as a partner for the exhibit, and when she realized there was a short window of time in between exhibits this fall, she decided to make it happen.
“I collected jerseys from Richard and the Crump-Burbank family and from some kids on campus,” she said.
Richard, who played for the Boston Astros in the 1970s, loaned his original jersey from his rookie year on the team. He also loaned a jersey from when the World Cup was held in Korea that was given to him by students — his name adorns the shirt’s back — as well as Brooks soccer jerseys from past pre-season tours in Europe.
Graham said she had anticipated this being an easy exhibit to install, but she was wrong.
“It took an inordinate amount of time to put together,” she said. “These jerseys have tremendous sentimental value to the people who own them. It became clear to me that these had much more value in terms of emotional value than most of the $50,000 paintings that come in from outside.”
She set up the space very differently as well. The couches faced a flat-screen TV where Brooks soccer highlights played to the tune of upbeat music. Hot wings from Sauce in Andover were served, and students gathered on the couches to eat and watch the slideshow in the gallery. Graham said creating this sort of atmosphere was one of her biggest objectives.
“It achieves our perpetual goal of addressing what art is and addressing all different audiences and making people feel comfortable and inspired in the space,” she said. “And seeing ordinary things in a new way.”
In the case of Richard, who said he does not collect jerseys, sometimes maybe a bit too ordinary.
“This is just what was left after my wife threw them all out,” he said.