Grand Valley State University Art Gallery collection consists of over 25,000 unique works of art, making it the second largest art collection in the state of Michigan. Gallery staff strive to create a cohesive display of artwork across all GVSU campuses – inside and outside the buildings.
According to the gallery’s website, the gallery team’s primary goal is to “enable our community to engage with visual narratives that align with academic values.” They incorporate this way of thinking into exhibition planning, learning events and the selection of artwork. Artwork in the GVSU collection includes various subjects, 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 curatorial process, the team examines the educational departments of each building and places artwork that reflects the programs that will take place in that space.
“We display everything with museum quality standards so that the presentation of everything allows each piece of art to be special in its own right,” Christensen said.
Christensen also meets with deans and directors to discuss program goals to better understand what art should be displayed. This process helps Christensen learn more about what’s going on in buildings and gauge what kind of art a department is looking for. After that, she sends a digital set of pieces from GVSU’s art collection database to department leadership for voting.
“We want to make sure that whenever our work is shown in a space, the faculty will use it in some way in their classroom,” Christensen said.
Additionally, the art gallery team organizes exhibitions and learning events across campuses to help engage students more. This exhibit hopes to enhance learning experiences beyond the traditional classroom structure. GVSU Director of Galleries and Collections Nathan Kemler said art has an impact on the viewer and can develop new ideas.
“We believe art has the power to move people, to bridge gaps in understanding, to spark our collective imaginations toward building a better and more equitable world,” Kemler said.
The work for these exhibitions is done collaboratively by more than the art gallery team. Artwork can be submitted by anyone interested, including alumni, faculty, community, current students, and even international artists.
The gallery has many pieces that were first exhibited at ArtPrize before being added to the permanent collection. Some have been acquired for particular locations, while others have locations yet to be determined.
For instance, “Anishinaabek clanswas a 2021 ArtPrize work that now hangs in the courtyard of the Seidman College of Business at GVSU Pew Campus. The coin commemorates the Council of Three Fires, a group of natives of the Grand Rapids area.
“For that, 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 exhibits to explore the GVSU art collection. Virtual tours can be arranged through the art gallery’s website, and Christensen offers in-person tours upon request.
Additionally, the gallery has its own app called “Art at GVSU” where users can take self-guided tours and find more information about certain pieces through QR codes.