GV art gallery curates the campuses


GVL / Bri Conway

Omari Seaberry, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University Art Gallery’s collection consists of over 25,000 unique works of art, making it the second largest art collection in the state of Michigan. The gallery staff works to create a cohesive display of artwork throughout all GVSU campuses – both in and outside of the buildings. 

According to the gallery’s website, the gallery team’s main goal is to “empower our community to engage with visual narratives that align with university values.” They incorporate this way of thinking into planning exhibits, learning events and choosing art pieces. Art pieces in the GVSU collection include various topics, artists and mediums to reflect GVSU’s values of a liberal education.

Project Manager and Curator of Public Spaces, Alison Christensen, said there is a process behind the placement of artwork on campus. During the curation process, the team looks at what educational departments are in each building and places art that reflects what programs will be in that space. 

“We display everything with museum quality standards so that the presentation of everything allows each work of art to be special on its own,” Christensen said.  

Christensen also meets with deans and directors to talk about objectives for programs in order to get a better grasp on what art should be displayed. This process helps Christensen learn more about what happens within the buildings and gauge what type of art a department is looking for. After that, she sends a digital set of pieces from the database of GVSU’s art collection to the leadership of the departments to vote on. 

“We want to make sure that whenever our work is shown in a space, the faculty will utilize it within their classroom in some way,” Christensen said.

Additionally, the Art Gallery team hosts exhibits and learning events across all campuses to help further engage students. This exposure hopes to enhance learning experiences beyond the traditional structure of the classroom. GVSU Director of Galleries and Collections, Nathan Kemler, said that the art has an impact on the viewer and can develop new ideas. 

“We believe that art has the power to move people, to bridge gaps in understanding, to spark our collective imagination toward building a better, more equitable world,” Kemler said.  

Work for these exhibits is done collaboratively by more than just the Art Gallery team. Artwork can be submitted by whoever is interested, including alumni, faculty, the community, current students and even international artists.

The gallery has many pieces that were first exhibited in ArtPrize before being added to the permanent collection. Some were acquired for particular locations, while others have locations that are yet to be determined.

For example, Jason Quigno’s “Clans of The Anishinaabek” was a 2021 ArtPrize work that can now be found in the courtyard of the Seidman College of Business at the GVSU Pew Campus. The piece commemorates the Council of Three Fires, a group of indigenous people from the Grand Rapids area. 

“For this, we knew we wanted it to be (in the courtyard) since that physical location once belonged to The Three Fires,” Kemler said. 

There are more ways than just the exhibits to explore the GVSU art collection. Virtual visits can be set up via the art gallery’s website and Christensen gives in-person tours by request.

Additionally, the gallery has its own app called “Art at GVSU” where users can take self-guided tours and find more information on certain pieces through QR codes.