GV Art Gallery holds educational conversation series


Courtesy / GVSU

Allison Rafferty, Staff Writer

All Grand Valley State University students and staff are welcome to join in on the latest event in the GVSU Art Gallery’s event series titled, “Unpacking the Exhibition Conversations.”

The series entails virtual discussions in which art professionals talk about the themes and ideas behind the artwork being displayed in the GVSU Art Gallery’s fall 2021 exhibition titled, “Honest and Refined: Art Outside the Academy.”

Art Gallery User Experience and Learning Manager, Amanda Carmer Rainey, said that the idea for the series came about from a discussion she was having with her colleagues in the art gallery department. 

“I wanted to connect our audiences to some of the bigger ideas present in the exhibition and a multi-event series felt like the best way to cover the most topics,” Rainey said. 

The “Honest and Refined: Art Outside the Academy” exhibition is a collection of artwork by self-taught artists. All of the artists featured in the exhibition tell personal and moving stories, give commentary on social and political injustices, or simply celebrate the joy of making objects and images. 

“All the work pushes at the boundaries of what’s acceptable and aesthetically pleasing in traditional fine art,” Rainey said. 

The first “Unpacking the Exhibition Conversation” on Friday, Oct. 22 was about art and healing, and the power of creativity in the process of healing. 

GVSU faculty member in the recreational therapy program, Sarah Bradley, presented at this event. She spoke about how she used creative art with her patients during her career as a recreational therapist in behavioral health settings. 

“During my portion of the presentation, I provided examples of therapeutic activities I would complete during group therapy sessions, the process of making art with the patients, and the relationship to their treatment goals,” Bradley said. “I specifically focused on mindfulness, finding flow in activities, self-awareness, self-exploration and expression, increasing focus and concentration, as well as leisure exploration for individuals who have been dealing with anhedonia and avolition.”

Rainey said that Bradley’s presentation was very powerful, and the recording can be found on the GVSU Art Gallery’s YouTube channel

The conversation that followed Bradley’s presentation allowed for those in attendance to share their own experiences of how art has been beneficial to their lives. 

“It was a joy to share a passion of mine with others and share some of the moving stories I have from working in behavioral health and the breakthroughs that art allowed individuals to experience,” Bradley said. “It was also wonderful to hear the comments from the attendees on how they use art in their own lives and how it allows them to release stress, be in the moment, and express themselves.”

Rainey said that the upcoming “Unpacking the Exhibition Conversation” is about unconventional materials and the ability of the materials to communicate a message. Three artists will be featured and share their creative processes and experiences using a variety of materials. 

“This conversation is meant to broaden our understanding of what art can be made of and how it can be presented,” Rainey said. 

Rainey said that events like this series are important because they show that art is so much more than just decoration. 

“Art has the power to bridge gaps in understanding, to spark our collective imagination toward building a better, more equitable world, and to enrich learning experiences beyond the capacity of traditional classroom structures,” Rainey said. 

The next event will be taking place on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at noon.