The best visitor reactions almost always come from a segment of our customer base. Hint: these are not museum experts, art historians or museum enthusiasts.
Imagine an individual with a very refined sense of seeing, interpreting and “reading” the world around you through images and visual images. You might think I’m describing a marketing professional or an art teacher — and those are good guesses — but that’s not who I’m thinking of. Rather, these people look at the world differently because their brains haven’t quite made the full cognitive shift to a world that, quite often, prioritizes reading and writing over literacy. visual. They are our youngest visitors, and they are some of the best guides, reviewers and conversationalists to have with you at any art museum.
I remember leading a large group of students through Boston-based artist Nathalie Miebach’s sculpture exhibit the first time I worked with her in 2015. The elementary students at the school neighbor had just completed a unit on meteorology and they were visiting Nathalie’s exhibit of beautifully intricate woven sculptures. His work begins with scientific data (weather and natural disasters) and translates data points into woven sculptures that capture the imagination but also tell us a story beyond static diagrams and graphs.
One student, a rather shy boy who was clearly trying to contain his excitement, came up to me after the group discussion we were having and said, “I learned more today than all year. I know that’s not a truthful statement of fact, but I heard him say, “I understand what this artist is showing me about weather and storms.” I see how art and science can complement each other rather than just living in their own silos.
Whether or not you have a younger child in your life, I hope you’ll take the time to see Nathalie’s new work at The Dennos before it comes out on May 29. At one point during our four-day exhibition installation marathon, with sore eyes and feet from standing on ladders all day, she told me that this was the largest number of wall installations she has ever shown at once – so don’t miss it!
While you’re at the museum, I hope you’ll also take the time to appreciate the creative talent of our regional artists on display in the 2022 Northwest Michigan Regional Juried Exhibition. Judged by independent curator Vera Grant , the exhibition features 94 works by 83 artists, with mediums ranging from charcoal, watercolor and acrylic to aluminum, wood, fiber and more. In Vera’s own words: “…turning to the regional artists of Northwest Michigan for inspiration and reflection, we can draw inspiration from their traditional, innovative, and deeply crafted responses to this unprecedented year. . By collecting their exemplary works and sharing them in an exhibition at Dennos, we can all engage directly with the strengths, reflections and aesthetic joys of our intertwined artistic community.
Finally, a solo exhibition of paintings, collages and sculptures by local artist Del Michel is on display near the Milliken Auditorium, celebrating Michel’s prolific career as an artist and longtime faculty member at Hope. College. Complete your visit by seeing Shape and Color: Black Artists from the Dennos Collection, and help support our efforts to highlight underrepresented artists in our community and across the state.
Thank you for supporting our community museum as we seek to build community, spark conversation and inspire change. As always, we hope to see you soon at the Dennos Museum Center. For latest hours of operation, membership benefits/renewals, upcoming concerts, and more, please visit dennosmuseum.org.
Craig Hadley is Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City.