Blue Wall Gallery displays student photography

GVL / Courtesy Hannah Mico 
Preparing to interview elders about the history of Makuleke with youth from the community as part of an oral history project; the name of the youth I worked with was Gold.

GVL / Courtesy Hannah Mico Preparing to interview elders about the history of Makuleke with youth from the community as part of an oral history project; the name of the youth I worked with was Gold.

Marissa LaPorte

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Glimpses of wildlife, natural resources and the people of South Africa can be seen while strolling past the new exhibit on the Blue Wall Gallery in the DeVos Center, located on Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus.

“I think it’s interesting that the (Blue Wall Gallery) is a passive space,” said David Newell, GVSU curator of exhibitions. “It’s in the background and you can move by it daily and take in bits and pieces as you go by. It is an extension of your world as you’re moving through that space. It increases your awareness, and that’s really what (GVSU) is about. It increases your view of the world.”

Hannah Mico, a GVSU student with a double major in photography and resource management, said she was able to increase her view of the world during her study abroad trip to South Africa. In the spring/summer of 2015, she returned with photographs and experiences she wanted to share with GVSU and its community. In partnership with GVSU’s Art Gallery Department, Mico successfully created a display of her photographs and observations while studying resource management in South Africa.

The display, “To Sustain a Continent: An Exploration of South African Resource Management,” opened on Nov. 3 and will be up through Dec. 17 on GVSU’s Blue Wall Gallery. A two-hour opening reception for the gallery was held on Saturday, Nov. 7 at the Blue Wall Gallery, where Mico invited GVSU faculty to ask her questions and discuss the gallery.

Through GVSU’s Padnos International Center, Mico studied resource management at Kruger National Park in South Africa while participating in a home-stay living situation with a family that resided in one of the villages.

Mico said it was a great experience to be able to tie in both of her majors with her study abroad experience.

During her stay in South Africa, Mico said she noticed some parallels between resource management in South Africa and resource management in the U.S.

“Resource management issues aren’t only in America,” Mico said. “Mainly what I want people to take away (from the display) as a whole is that the environmental issues we have aren’t singular to a certain place. There are issues that we see as someone else’s issues because they aren’t next door to us, but these issues are universal.”

Newell helped Mico create this art gallery display. Newell said that during her study abroad trip, Mico was able to witness successes and failures in resource management, and she had the opportunity to learn by experiencing the things taking place in front of her.

“To see beyond the classroom is one of the biggest (learning experiences),” Newell said. “I think you learn more that way. There are opportunities out there for you to expand your education. There are programs through Padnos International Center where you can study abroad and tie it back in to your major area study.”

Mico said she saw population control and drought issues in South Africa that were very similar to the population control and drought issues in America.

Mico said that the gallery allows her to share her study abroad experience to others and she hopes that it inspires them to believe that they can have a similarly eye-opening experience through GVSU’s study abroad program.

Newell said this gallery is unique because it includes the culture, animals, people and natural resources of South Africa and other students can learn about South Africa from viewing the display.

For more information about upcoming or past art gallery displays, visit For more information about GVSU’s Padnos International Center and study abroad programs, visit