When my college roommate, Liz West, and I were recent graduates living in New York in the early 1980s, we thought we were the cat’s meow because we would go the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Friday evenings, where they have classical music playing in the mezzanine overlooking the huge lobby. While our peers were guzzling beer and gyrating at China Club, Limelight, and Danceteria, we would be at the museum on a Friday night, sipping chardonnay and listening to chamber music. We’d make like we were talking about the exhibits we had just meandered

through, but mostly, we thought, maybe some tall, dark, and handsome Greek shipping magnate might catch our eye across the crowded mezzanine and, well, we’d have the golden ticket.

Needless to say, we didn’t meet any Greek shipping magnates but we did have our first taste of one of the best-kept secrets in museum circles – the best way to introduce yourself to a museum is through its First Friday program (which, in some museums like the Met, takes place every Friday).

This spring the Guggenheim Museum puts a twist on its First Fridays, held from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., when, in addition to viewing the museum’s progressive contemporary art, visitors will be able to listen to some of New York’s hottest DJs spin music in the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda.

The Brooklyn Museum sees attendance figures of 7,000 a night for their First Saturdays, which feature world music, curator talks, dance workshops, films, and hands-on art activities.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art transforms the Great Stair Hall into an intimate cabaret for Art After 5 on Fridays from 5 to 8:45 p.m., with waitstaff serving cocktails, elegant cafe-style appetizers, and desserts, and an eclectic mix of international music on the first Friday of each month, and recognized and emerging jazz artists on all other Fridays, with guided gallery tours offered throughout the evening. In fact several galleries in Philadelphia offer First Friday programs.

Of course it’s a lark to go to New York or Philadelphia but you need travel no further than the Princeton University campus to sample the First Fridays program at the Princeton University Art Museum. The next one is this Friday, April 1. Caroline Cassells, curator of education and academic programs at the museum, says the program was started in 2001 with the intent of opening the museum to a larger audience of the university community, including students, and the greater Princeton community. First Fridays takes place four times during the academic year, in October, November, March, and April.

‘When we first started, it was a jazz night with student musicians performing, as well as alumni and community member musicians," says Cassells. "Over time, we’ve added elements. To get people to look at the art we added gallery tours and gallery talks, and we branched out the music." The evenings usually draw a crowd of more than 300. One of the most well-attended programs was a Chinese-themed night, with Chinese music and tours of the museum’s impressive Chinese collection.

At last fall’s program titled "West to Wesselmann: American Drawings and Watercolors and the Princeton University Art Museum," the Richardson Chamber Players performed. The First Fridays program is underwritten by the Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum. ‘This fall we had a jazz night and invited the whole freshman class, who went on tours and were knocked out by the collection," Cassells says, adding that the most common response from First Friday first-timers, no matter what their age, "is that they had no idea how

good the collection is."

Cassells, who organizes First Fridays, grew up in Washington and Charlottesville, Virginia. Her father was in the army and her mother, now retired, was a nurse who later earned her Ph.D. in nursing science and did bioethics research. Cassells earned a bachelor of art history from the University of Maryland in 1990, and a masters and Ph.D. in art history from the University of Virginia in 2004. She came to the Princeton University Art Museum from the Philadelphia Art Museum, where she was the staff lecturer in charge of academic affairs. While completing a fellowship at the University of Virginia, Cassells help mount a student exhibition and was hooked – she knew she wanted to

work with students in an art museum setting.

The April 1 First Friday is called "Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival" and will feature the New York-based group Taikoza, which performs on taiko drums, which are large, barrel-like Japanese drums. "Taiko drums are very loud, so we’ll likely have just one drum, along with other Japanese instruments," Cassells says. Gallery tours at 8 and 8:30 p.m. will focus on highlights of the permanent collection with an emphasis on the Japanese collection.

The "Making Waves" project, which has held events throughout the winter and spring in various Princeton arts and library venues and on campus, will have several stations at the event where participants can make origami "waves" for $1 each, a contribution that will go towards the project’s goal of making 150,000 "waves" – and $150,000 – for tsunami relief efforts through a contribution to CARE USA. Refreshments and non-alcoholic drinks will be served.

Cassells says the goal of the program is similar to those of other First Friday museum programs across the country. "This is about the museum’s outreach to the community, to have people come to the museum." And handsome Greek shipping magnates are welcome to attend, of course.

First Fridays program, Friday, April 1, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., Princeton University Art Museum. For more information call 609-258-3788 or visit www.princetonartmuseum.org.

Medieval, Renaissance, and baroque galleries are open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Tours are given on Saturdays at 2 p.m.

"Recarving China’s Past: The Art, Archaeology, and Architecture of the Wu Family Shrines," a collection of pictorial wall carvings that were part of mid-second century funerary structures. Through June 26. Also, "Some Art of the ’80s," the works of artists including Sandro Chia, Eric Fischl, Robert Mapplethorpe, David Salle, and Sean Scully. Through June 12.

Call for Entries

Montgomery Center for the Arts seeks entries for the annual open juried exhibition which will run from May 13 to June 19. Entries will be received on Wednesday, May 11, 4 to 7 p.m., accompanied by entry form and entry fee of $30. Works must be original art created within the last three years. Visit www.montgomerycenterforthearts.com or call 609-921-3272 for information.

The Princeton Festival is holding a contest in conjunction with the summer production of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" to find the best meat pie recipe. Entries must be postmarked by April 10. Three recipes will be chosen to be prepared at Communiversity on Saturday, April 23. Send recipes to Meat Pie Contest, the Princeton Festival, Box 2063, Princeton 08543. For information and specific entry criteria, please visit www.princetonfestival.org or call 800-595-4849.

Gallery 125 seeks submission in all media for its summer exhibit. Submitted work must be available for show and sale. Send a $10 check for up to five visuals (slides or CDs only) labeled with the title, media, dimensions, and date of work to Gallery 125, 125 South Warren Street, Trenton 08608. Deadline for submissions is May 3. Visit www.gallery125.com or call Nancy Hunter at 609-989-9119.

Donate Wireless

Verizon Wireless accepts no-longer used wireless phones and equipment for its Hopeline phone recycling program. Proceeds from the sale of equipment go to fund non-profit agencies and to purchase wireless phones for victims of domestic violence. Visit www.verizonwireless.com/hopeline.

Free CPR Classes

American Heart Association offers free CPR training throughout New Jersey during the week of April 8 to 16. The classes are for laypersons to learn the basic lifesaving skills of adult cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Call 877-AHA-4CPR for location and to register.

Classes are also available through Princeton HealthCare System. Visit

www.princetonhcs.org or call 609-497-4119.

For Kids

Maidenhead Studio announces summer painting, sculpting, and mask-making classes for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade. 11 Gordon Avenue, Lawrenceville. Call 609-896-2200 for the schedule and more information.

Plainsboro Recreation offers summer camps and clinics including the Lenape Trailblazers Day Camp, programs with the park ranger for young outdoor explorers, teen adventure camp, and police youth academy. Sports clinics include one-week programs in basketball, soccer, football, softball, cross-training, and agility. Visit www.plainsboronj.com or call 609-799-0909.

Raritan Valley Community College is accepting applications for the Galileo Scholarship for the fall semester. Deadline is May 15. Open to new and current students, awards are granted to those interested in majoring in science, math, engineering, and technology. For information E-mail galileo@raritanval.edu or call 908-526-1200, ext. 8273.

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