GVSU Art Gallery: Getting To Know Us

Nathan Kemler

people

Director of Galleries and Collections
Contact Information

  1. Describe your role at the GVSU Art Gallery?

    "I provide our team with visionary and adaptive leadership while empowering others and building deep collaborative partnerships across our community. I direct all of our services and initiatives, placing emphasis on human-centric and student-focused outcomes." [see more: GVNOW article "A Borderless Museum"]
     
  2. What is a career highlight you are most proud of?

    "I'm most proud of the work I've done to increase accessibility to our art collection. This includes the digitizing and online publication of our entire art collection, the creation of our mobile app 'Art at GVSU', the Alten Online Digital Library, and the statewide Collective Access Consortium for collecting institutions. I believe art should be barrier-free because it tells our collective stories. Art matters because we matter. Our stories matter and they belong to everyone."
     
  3. What is your favorite work of art in the GVSU Art Gallery collection and why?

    "This is such a tough question! There are so many amazing pieces and art is fluid, meaning what art I connect with strongly in my life may change based on my life growth experiences and changes. That being said, today I'm going to go with the bronze statue 'Icarus' by David J. Kotker II. I've always enjoyed mythology for their cultural and human insights that they provide through the lens of super-natural events and beings. This particular piece is made from bronze and towers over 6' tall, yet also carries a sense of vulnerability and fragility with it. A perfect combination given the subject matter of the story of Icarus.
     
  4. What is your favorite GVSU Art Gallery project and/or exhibition?

    My favorite project has been the development of our mobile app 'Art at GVSU'. This is an ongoing projects that has been active now for 10 years and has had a wide variety of direct student contributions to the project through our partnership with the GVSU Applied Computing Institute. We've had graduate and senior capstone students adding gaming mechanics, building art tour systems, providing language translations, updating the core code bases, and creating new features for multi-media support. This project is an open-source project that we've developed alongside our partners in Brooklyn, NY and is part of a much larger global collection accessibility initiative."
     
  5. Share a fun fact about yourself.

    "I live in small home decorated in the style of 'medieval-bohemian.' There is an average of two large statues per room ranging in subject matter from mythology to the ancient near east. We also have three small dogs (Gonzo, Zowie, and Memphis)."

Alison Christensen

Alison Christensen

Project Manager
Contact Information

  1. Describe your role at the GVSU Art Gallery?

    "My primary role at the art gallery is to manage campus art projects relating to new building construction, building renovations, department renovations and department art requests. For these projects I manage artwork acquisitions, project budgets, artwork preparation & installation timelines. During the course of my projects, I enjoy building relationships through creative collaborations."
     
  2. What is a career highlight you are most proud of?

    "I am passionate about utilizing the arts as a tool in community engagement. I love melding together the skills I learned from my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, the research from my Master in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership degree and the strategic goals of our department. I am proud that I have been able to represent GVSU and present at conferences and other speaking engagements.

    Two conference highlights are: 1) South Eastern Conference for Public Administration (affiliated with American Society for Public Administration). The title of the panel discussion was; “Partnering with the Arts for a Better Community.” And 2) in October of 2020 I will present with other community colleagues at the Michigan Museum Association annual conference. Our panel discussion is titled; “Bridging the Gap: Building Connections for Effective Community Engagement.” This conference is particularly special to me because it is being held in Port Huron, MI- the ‘Bluewater Area’ where I was born and raised."

     
  3. What is your favorite work of art in the GVSU Art Gallery collection and why?

    "I have so many favorites, but The Three Graces oil painting by Teodor M. Dumitrescu has been at the top of my list for some time. This work of art combines my love of illustration and the impression of collage to express a concept. I like that elements of the painting veer toward realism but is a totally made up space. You should see it close up! It’s incredible."
     
  4. What is your favorite GVSU Art Gallery project and/or exhibition?

    "It is too hard to pick one, so I’ve narrowed it down to four.

    Projects - 
  •  Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall on our GVSU Health Campus [read more: GVNext article]
  • Mathias J. Alten: An Evolving Legacy publication [read more: CulturedGR article]

    Exhibitions - 

     
  • “Veracity, Distortion, Reduction: Visual Explorations by Ed Wong-Ligda” - This exhibition marked the retirement of Ed who was my undergrad advisor at GVSU. Over the years we have become close friends. It was a privilege for me to be involved with this exhibition.
  • All Department of Visual & Media Arts student exhibitions. It is so exciting for me to see what our students create."
     
  1. Share a fun fact about yourself.

    "While on our honeymoon in Cinque Terre, Italy, my husband and I saw travel writer/ television host Rick Steves walking up the road. It was amazing! We couldn’t believe it.

    I yelled out, ‘Hey Rick! Will you sign your book for us? He signed his Rick Steves’ Italy travel book and took a picture with us. So Fun!"

Katie Pershon

Katie Pershon with GVSU student

Collections and Exhibitions Technician
Contact Information

  1. Describe your role at the GVSU Art Gallery?

    "My official title is Collections and Exhibitions Technician, which is just a fancy way to say that if a piece in the collection needs attention, it will likely come to my attention. That can mean anything from creating a mount for display to photographing it for our online database. I also am responsible for all of the graphic content created for our exhibitions and public outreach. If you have seen a mailer or a flyer from us in the last five years it was likely designed by me."
     
  2. What is a career highlight you are most proud of?

    "It’s been a running joke for quite some time that none of my co-workers actually knows what my BFA emphasis was. At different times it’s been assumed my major was either graphic design, illustration, metalsmithing, or sculpture (it is in fact Visual Studies). Admittedly, I get bored easily, which means I naturally want to vary my tasks and avoid repetition ­– hence their confusion."
     
  3. What is your favorite work of art in the GVSU Art Gallery collection and why?

    "First off, my default state is indecision so picking a favorite is an impossible task. I will say the pieces that tend stay with me are often student works: Matthew Rettinger’s illustrations from his series, Breath of Sands, Jillian Thompson’s, Respect the Chains, or Markeyna Jefferson’s, Taken for Granted series. Each had its own unique perspective, but all built upon an unspoken lore or mythos (real or imagined) that gave them a depth and brevity that went beyond the images themselves."
     
  4. What is your favorite GVSU Art Gallery project and/or exhibition?

    "Again, finality is not a strong trait of mine but I will try to make a decision. My favorite exhibition was probably Ebb and Flow: Explorations in Painting by Herbert Murrie. Not only is Herb’s work amazing, but I had the wonderful opportunity to visit his studio and spent time with him and his family. They were an absolute joy to meet and I truly cherish the memories formed during that time.

    My favorite project is probably re-photographing the collection for our online collections database. We’ve only just started to scratch the surface of our collection, but I’m excited to be able to update such a critical resource to further our role as a borderless museum. There is something really satisfying for me compare an old photo to its new counterpart and just how much we’ve been able to improve a piece’s online representation."

  1. Share a fun fact about yourself.

    "For better or worse, my hair is my identifier. I have a long mohawk that has not been a “normal” color in about 5 years now. I do all of the coloring myself which has led to some really awesome (and not less awesome) outcomes. Currently, the right side is neon green and the left is purple. When in doubt, you can always as for the “tall girl with bright hair” and anyone on staff will know who you mean!"

Nicole Webb

Nicole Webb

Collections Manager
Contact Information

  1. Describe your role at the GVSU Art Gallery?

    "Hi! My name I Nicole Webb and I am the Collections Manager for the GVSU Art Gallery. In a nut shell, I’m in charge of making sure our art collection – whether on view for the public or in our storage facility- is safe and sound and accounted for. My job is mainly behind the scenes- you’ll see me doing a lot of work maintaining our database, assisting with exhibits and building projects, and hiding among the shelves and flat files of our storage area."
     
  2. What is a career highlight you are most proud of?

    "From an early age I knew I wanted to work in museums- I was (ok still am!) obsessed with Egypt, Anthropology and material culture. When I started working at the GVSU Art Gallery as a student worker (back in the early 2000s!), I was brought into this whole new world of art and artists and I knew this was the career path for me even more. After grad-school I took a side-adventure living in Montana for a few years and worked at a historical museum, but any time anyone asked my ideal job I’d think back about working with the students, faculty and the art collection at GVSU. I’m super proud to be a Laker for a Lifetime!"
     
  3. What is your favorite work of art in the GVSU Art Gallery collection and why?

    "When I worked as a student at the GVSU Art Gallery, one of the first projects I helped with was the install of the then new Niemeyer Honors College building. I immediately fell in love with the gouche, graphite and ink on paper “Untitled” piece by Mark Ripley. There’s something so mysterious and surreal about this piece that it just lures me in every time I see it. Who is this faceless man? What are these familiar but strange things around him. What’s just past that window?"
     
  4. What is your favorite GVSU Art Gallery project and/or exhibition?

    "To pick just one favorite exhibit is simply asking too much- so I’m going with my favorite exhibit related experience instead. I remember, years and years ago, working with artist Sarah Lindley as a student helping set up a joint exhibit with her and Norwood Viviano. This exhibit featured Sarah’s “Cabinet House Miniatures Series”- a series of ceramic sculptures that were renditions of Dutch Cabinet Houses- they remind be of 3-D renderings but in ceramic. They traveled in pieces, so we had to fit them back together like Legos. I remember pushing, tugging, and pulling on these incredibly delicate pieces to get them just right. I have never had such respect for a material or an artist knowing exactly how far you (could literally!) push something to get such a spectacular finished project.

    My favorite project is an easy one… INVENTORY! My coworkers often think I’m part droid because I love data entry and the detailed process between chaos and complete organization. While one of the best outcomes of doing an inventory of our art collection is a neat and tidy database, the real fun is the dirty work. Who else can say they’ve touched nearly all 18,000+ original works of art at GVSU? Okay- I probably can’t actually say that I have but I’m working on it! It’s always exciting to open all those drawers that are usually closed, peel back the lids of the archival boxes, turn down that hallway you forgot existed, and remember and reflect on the stories behind each and every piece in our collection."

     
  5. Share a fun fact about yourself.

    "I’m a collector at heart. I love finding that treasure you didn’t know you needed until you saw it- and I love learning about other people’s collections. My fiancé Dean and I love exploring antique shops and adding to our various personal collections. We both have a passion for art, but I also collect Abraham Lincoln memorabilia and he collects rocks. We also have what some would call a zoo ….five cats, two dogs, a rabbit and a fish tank….but the numbers fluctuate as we also foster cats and kittens for a local organization. So I guess you could also say we have small collection of ridiculously cute animals as well!"

Joel Zwart

Joel Zwart

Curator of Exhibitions
Contact Information

  1. Describe your role at the GVSU Art Gallery?

    "I provide strategic, curatorial development, and direction for exhibitions.  Much of work involves collaborating with students, faculty, staff, guest artists, collectors and community stakeholders. I love learning why artists create, what compels a collector to collect, how artwork is crafted and where connections can be made. I’m a storyteller at heart."
     
  2. What is a career highlight you are most proud of?

    "In 2004, I spent over two years working with a great team of people to host the traveling exhibition 'Petra: Lost City of Stone' at Calvin University. This was the most comprehensive exhibition on the art and culture of the ancient city of Petra, and the first major cultural collaboration between Jordan and the United States. It was an enormous undertaking, at an early stage in my career, but it was great learning opportunity and an experience I’ll never forget."
     
  3. What is your favorite work of art in the GVSU Art Gallery collection and why?

    "One of my favorite works in the collection is 'Rescuing a Boat,' by Mathias Alten (1871-1938). This was painted in 1911, while Alten and his family were staying in Scheveningen, which is along the Dutch coast of the North Sea. The painting captures a tense scene where fishermen attempt to draw a boat onshore. Alten skillfully renders a moody and overcast environment, and creates a composition that leaves us wondering how the problem will be resolved."
     
  4. What is your favorite GVSU Art Gallery project and/or exhibition?

    "Last fall the GVSU Art Gallery hosted 'Art of Today: Contemporary Collections from Chicago,' which showcased dynamic and challenging works of art. The exhibition brought together years of collecting and relationship building between Grand Valley and Chicago, and engaged GVSU faculty and staff with responsive writings in the gallery. The exhibition encapsulated many of the goals we’ve set for ourselves here at the GVSU Art Gallery and was visually compelling."
     
  5. Share a fun fact about yourself.

    "I’m a lover of all things Star Wars. I’ve dressed up with my kids at Halloween as Darth Vader, served Death Star pancakes, assisted with numerous Lego Star Wars creations and watched the movies countless times."

Amanda Carmer Rainey

Amanda Cramer Rainey

User Experience & Learning Manager
Contact Information

  1. Describe your role at the GVSU Art Gallery?

    "I am the art gallery’s brand new User Experience and Learning Manager. My first day of work was April 27th, so I’m still learning all the nuances associated with my role, but in general I’ll be connecting the GVSU art collection with students, faculty, and the wider West Michigan community by creating educational experiences and resources in collaboration with the Art Gallery Team."
     
  2. What is a career highlight you are most proud of?

    "While in grad school at KCAD I opened a small exhibition-based art gallery called Craft House in downtown GR. Craft House hosted exhibitions and events, and served as a sort-of touchstone on the Avenue for the Arts for about 3 years (a handful of GVSU art students even had their thesis exhibitions there). It was a scrappy little operation pulled together by a handful of young artists who knew very little about running a gallery. We’ve all moved on to bigger things, but I’m most proud of the work I did there because we made a lot happen with very few resources; I learned how to run a business, support artists (creatively and financially), and how to actively participate in a creative community. I’ll always look back with pride on those days."
     
  3. What is your favorite work of art in the GVSU Art Gallery collection and why?

    "This is a tough one to answer because most of my experience with the collection thus far has been through the online collection, but one in-person art viewing experience does come to mind… A couple years ago I was in the Seidman Building on the Pew Campus for the first time, getting lost on my way to a meeting, and I distinctly remember taking pause in front of a Reb Roberts painting; Gimme More. I had become familiar with Reb’s work when I first moved to GR and started attending Avenue for the Arts events. Seeing Reb’s familiar color palette and playful style in an unfamiliar place instantly made me feel more comfortable. I love that art has the power to transform spaces like that."
     
  4. What is your favorite GVSU Art Gallery project and/or exhibition?

    "This is a tough one. I’ve really enjoyed looking through the online collection, specifically the artwork in Finkelstein Hall on the Health Campus in downtown Grand Rapids, and seeing various student exhibitions over the years, but I think my favorite project is yet to come. I’m hoping to collaborate with faculty across all GVSU’s programs to find creative ways of integrating the art collection into their curriculum!"
     
  5. Share a fun fact about yourself.

    "I’m not super sporty, so this is usually surprising for those who just meet me… I once co-led a two week long, 500 mile bike trip for twelve 15 year old girls, totally unsupported, meaning we carried all our gear on our bikes, cooked our own meals on portable stoves and camped along the way. We even completed all our own bike repairs!"

Jenniffer Eckert

Jenniffer Eckert

Jenniffer Eckert
Art Gallery Assistant

  1. Describe your role at the GVSU Art Gallery?

    "My role in the Art Gallery can range greatly depending on the day. Most days you will find me with my nose stuck in an Excel spreadsheet working on improving the various department budgets (I am an Excel nerd); other days you will find me organizing meetings and events, ordering office supplies, and/or manning the Art Gallery. I like to say I’m a jack of all trades and master of none, and although I don’t consider myself “master”, I think I do a pretty good job!"
     
  2. What is a career highlight you are most proud of?

    "I've taken on multiple challenges and new responsibilities over the years. I think the one the stands out the most as been the work I've done directly with our students. I love working directly with our students and currently manage a team of student assistants that work in the Art Gallery Department."
     
  3. What is your favorite work of art in the GVSU Art Gallery collection and why?

    "I’ve always loved the bright colors and defined textures of this alum piece titled Exposure: Engage by Ashley Marcangelo. Ashley graduated from GVSU 2015. The piece was hung up behind my desk after the gallery first purchased it - shortly afterwards it was chosen to be hung in the Holton-Hooker Living Center common room for all students to enjoy."
     
  4. What is your favorite GVSU Art Gallery project and/or exhibition?

    "I am proud to be a part of all that the Art Gallery does within GVSU and the greater community, which makes it hard to choose just one project or exhibition as a favorite."
     
  5. Share a fun fact about yourself.

    "My dream job is to be an underwater photographer on my own charter boat in the Caribbean."

Dru King, GVSU Art Gallery Preparator, installing artwork on campus

Dru King
Art Gallery Preparator

  1. Describe your role at the GVSU Art Gallery?

    "As preparator at the GVSU Art Gallery, I am responsible for matting, framing, installation of artwork for our building projects and exhibits, transportation of artwork, and ordering of materials for our installation projects. I also work with and train student workers on many of these tasks."
     
  2. What is a career highlight you are most proud of?

    "In 2001, I assisted Dutch artist Cyril Lixenberg in Amsterdam. I helped him catalog and ship his collection of Dutch prints for addition into the GVSU permanent collection. It was a great experience and one that I will never forget."
     
  3. What is your favorite work of art in the GVSU Art Gallery collection and why?

    "I enjoy the entire French prints collection. It was my honor to document and mat these pieces when they first arrived at GVSU. I got to work with Erwin A. Raible, who was one of the donors. He had some amazing stories about many of the pieces in the collection."
     
  4. What is your favorite GVSU Art Gallery project and/or exhibition?

    "Ed Wong-Ligda’s exhibition of his paintings is one I will always remember. Ed started the illustration program at GVSU and was my advisor as a student. I always admired his artwork and teaching style."
     
  5. Share a fun fact about yourself.

    "I was the 3rd person to graduate with an illustration degree from GVSU."