Grand Rapids Art Museum features new collections exhibit

GVL / Courtesy - Sidney Selvig

Sidney Selvig

GVL / Courtesy - Sidney Selvig

Sidney Selvig

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Many people collect different objects for various reasons. For some, like the football fan who collects club memorabilia, it is a way to express loyalty; for others, like for a stamp collector, they are proud of rare finds, and other times people collect items purely for the satisfaction of seeking them out and owning them.

The Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) opened the exhibit Finders Keepers: West Michigan Collects in February. This exhibit, created by GRAM Chief Curator Ron Platt, hopes to explore the idea that collecting things is creative.

“Museums, like us, who have been in existence for 100 years started out with gifts from individual collectors,” Platt said. “People don’t know what is in their backyards sometimes.”

Finders Keepers: West Michigan Collects, examines and focuses on the people and other organizations of West Michigan who collect assortments of different things to keep the focal point on people staying creative. Platt sought out all contributing collectors for the exhibit himself after initially creating the idea.

“It was like I was collecting all these things myself for the first time,” Platt said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Each piece featured in the exhibit has a label that tells the story of how the people of West Michigan first began collecting, what they collected and the impulses behind it. One part of this exhibit is the collection assembled by Brett Colley, associate professor of printmaking, drawing and foundations at the department of art and design at Grand Valley State University.

His collection is comprised of thousands of artifacts that he has recovered from the streets of Grand Rapids while walking, running or riding his bike. The exhibit is categorized into several types of collectors: “Tribe Members/Fans,” “Seekers,” and “Researchers/Archivists.”

“I would locate myself somewhere between Historian and Seeker,” Colley said. “There is a strange inevitability when one undertakes a project such as this: garbage becomes precious, or at least some of it does. 

While these categories are intended to inform and educate, they don’t limit or define the various inspirations of the collectors.

“Even objects abandoned on the street assume value through the act of collecting, which privileges certain things over others,” Colley said. “My quest for particular rubbish fills every journey with the promise of riches.”

Items found in the museum include: fine arts, articles of clothing, samples from the untouched world, artifacts from pop culture and video interviews from the Grand Rapids African American Museum, and much more.

The exhibit demonstrates the concept of what people consider quality, value and beauty, as defined by the eye of the beholder in a very personal term.

Finders Keepers: West Michigan Collects is on display at the GRAM until Sunday, April 30. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. On Saturdays, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

“I want people to be delighted,” Platt said, “but I don’t expect everybody to like everything–well, except me!”