Muskegon Museum of Art collaboration gives students professional experience

Stephanie Allen

Through a collaboration established by Ellen Sprouls, the Grand Valley State University Art Gallery education coordinator, three poetry students and two saxophone student quartets are getting professional performance experience at the Muskegon Museum of Art.

The students, who are volunteering their time, will be showcasing their work at the MMA on April 4 from 5:30-8 p.m. as part of the event, “Poetic Words and Music.”

“It’s a great outlet for them because they can come and, you know, practice their own skills here in an open setting other than the university,” Mott said. “And then it’s great for us because we’re not only getting great music, but we’re also promoting just the various sorts of art, too.”

The poetry students, led by GVSU writing department professor Patricia Clark, wrote pieces in conjunction with the MMA’s Art Talk Ekphrastic Poetry Competition, which ended March 28. The competition was a way for adults and college students to create poetry about 10 selected pieces on display at the MMA, Mott said.

“So, it’s kind of in conjunction with that contest, we kind of paired it, you know, and we thought it’d be fun to have the college voice of students,” Mott said.

Several of Clark’s poetry students performed at the MMA last year as part of a special collection exhibit, and Mott said she was excited to continue the collaboration with this event.

“It’s been a wonderful pairing for us because it allows me to celebrate more than just the visual arts, and it it’s a great experience for the students, and, you know, it’s a another venue for them to experience,” Mott said. “So, I would love to continue this collaboration.”

With the students presenting their work in a more public space, Clark said it will help them take professional writing more seriously.

“They’re treated like a professional all of a sudden, so it’s a little stressful,” Clark said.

And she said audiences will most likely be surprised at how talented her students are – no matter how nervous they might be before the reading.

“I said to (one student), ‘You’ll do great. Practice, walk around in your apartment, or whatever and read the poem to yourself. Get it down and you’ll do great,’” Clark said.

The saxophone students, under the direction of Jonathan Nichol, GVSU associate music professor, were a perfect pairing for the event, Mott said.

“The music was a nice addition,” Mott said. “Jonathan had a few groups that wanted to play and so that worked out well.”

The event is a way for students to gain experience, while letting the community hear a fresh voice on art interpretation, Mott said.

“I’m really looking forward to the event, not only for what they’re going to have to offer, but also for a younger voice,” she said. “I think, you know, it’s great to hear what students are doing in our community, and what they can bring to the community at large.”

Clark is very proud of her students, and hopes all of their work will be well received. If not, audiences will still get a talent-filled performance, while enlarging their perception of art, she said.

“You have music, you have words, you have students, and you know, it makes it kind of fun,” Clark said.
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