UNION, N.J. — Don’t expect to see the original “Mona Lisa” or “The Last Supper.” Those will remain in France and Italy.
However, recreations of many of Leonardo da Vinci’s works will be on display at Kean University’s Liberty Hall Academic Center when “Da Vinci — Inventions” comes to the school beginning Jan. 25.
The traveling exhibit, created by Grande Exhibitions, has already visited Italy, Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Philippines. It features interactive recreations of da Vinci’s drawings and inventions, including musical instruments, 15th-century versions of a helicopter and submarine, and reproductions of “Mona Lisa,” “The Last Supper” and 18 other works by da Vinci.
It will also include 60 interactive recreations of the Renaissance polymath’s inventions. There will be 16 stations in the exhibit in the 6,000-square-foot Liberty Hall Academic Center, at 1003 Morris Ave., which will be up through April 12.
“All of the inventions were brought to life by Italian artisans, many using techniques and materials from the Renaissance period,” according to a Dec. 20 Kean press release. “Scouring more than 6,000 pages from da Vinci’s personal codices, the artisans deciphered hidden clues, intentional mistakes and mirror-image writing that he employed to keep his works top secret.”
The da Vinci exhibit was the type of program Kean officials hoped to be able to attract when it opened the center in September.
“This kind of world-class exhibition on one of history’s greatest thinkers is exactly the kind of program we envisioned bringing to our students and community members when we opened the Liberty Hall Academic Center this past fall,” Kean President Dawood Farahi said. “We are looking forward to welcoming visitors, so they can experience history and art in a new way.”
The exhibit puts the new facility in the spotlight.
“I think this is the first traveling exhibit to ever come to Kean,” said Liberty Hall Academic Center Executive Director Lynette Zimmerman in a Jan. 7 interview. “During that month, we were charged to bring the facility to life. We opened up a new special collections and research library. In this facility, there was a public area. How do we engage the community using art?” Zimmerman explained that there are multiple interactive components to the da Vinci exhibit, including tactile aspects that are meant to appeal to people with a range of interests.
“The exhibit, there were many options that we could’ve brought here to Kean and for the community. But, this one spoke the loudest.
“The diversity of our students: engineers, doctors, people in the military — it felt like the natural fit for us. We’re bringing history to life and we want people to experience it and feel freedom to sketch and to provide something to feel liberated in a way. Daily life can be constraining, and to have moments of pure creativity is freeing, and I hope that’s something people walk away with.”
Getting the exhibit ready for the public took nearly the entire school.
“It takes an army to put this together,” Zimmerman said. “All the departments at Kean, it expands from our colleagues in teaching and history and fine arts. It expands to our alumni and our teachers in the community. Our gallery director and our university relations team have been instrumental.
“One of our goals and perhaps our mission at Liberty Hall Academic Center is to be that connector, connecting to students and serving a community that drew historical perspectives to global issues. It felt like a natural fit for that. A lot of the time, we don’t think of historical figures as being relevant, and we don’t think about how to translate what they did in 1505 to 2020.”
Because of the breadth of da Vinci’s work, Zimmerman believes there is something for nearly everyone.
“You might come to this exhibit as a musician, but you might come to an understanding of a lot of things that you didn’t even realize,” she said.