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New art exhibits feature global travels, the art of preservation, and idealizing common objects

  • A finalist in the PIC Pics competition submitted by Valerie Wojciechowski featuring two students sitting on top of a mountain.
  • A photo of plastinated octopuses.
  • "Saw Blade" by Mike McDonnell
  • Photo of a student leading an art class in Haiti

Posted on July 10, 2018

Grand Valley State University’s permanent art collection currently consist of more than 16,000 works by various artists from around the world who have explored numerous mediums through varying inspirations. 

Rounding out the summer months and transitioning into the fall semester, Grand Valley’s Art Gallery will offer four free exhibitions displayed in its multiple galleries on both the Allendale and Pew Grand Rapids campuses.

“These four exhibitions exemplify the Art Gallery’s commitment to encourage art appreciation and interdisciplinary learning,” said Joel Zwart, Art Gallery Curator of Exhibitions. “Some of these exhibitions allow viewers to discover a variety of art objects highlighting the university’s diverse collection of art while others tell the story of unique Grand Valley programs or provide insights into student and faculty experiences abroad.”

"Plastination — The Art of Preservation"
Exhibition dates: July 13-December 14
Blue Wall Gallery, DeVos Center, Building B, Pew Grand Rapids Campus

Plastination is the process of infusing animal, human or plant tissues with a variety of plastic or silicone products to render the tissues odor-free, dry and permanently preserved for educational purposes. The process was invented by Gunther von Hagens in 1977 at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and became popular through his many “Body Worlds” exhibitions around the world. Beginning in 2007, a handful of Grand Valley faculty members began studying plastination and investigating the opportunity to create a lab at the university. That idea became a reality in 2013 — making Grand Valley home to the only plastination lab in Michigan. Since then, more than 300 specimens have been plastinated for use in a variety of teaching roles and biomedical, biology and even art courses. This exhibition tells the story of plastination at Grand Valley and walks visitors through the process and uses of plastinates. The exhibit brings together more than 20 animal specimens from the lab.

"Common Balance: Still Life Paintings by Mike McDonnell"
Exhibition dates: July 13-October 26
Kirkhof Center Gallery, Kirkhof Center, Allendale Campus

In the early 1980s, Michigan-based artist Mike McDonnell became enamored with still life arrangements of common household objects. He began by drawing each object individually, then patiently applied multiple glazes of watercolor paint to achieve rich color and the illusion of realism. This exhibit features a selection of the late artist's work from 1982-2009 that spotlights his desire to idealize common objects in balanced and unique groupings. More than 800 works by McDonnell reside in Grand Valley’s permanent collection — the most works by any artist represented in the collection.

"PIC Pics – 2018 Padnos International Center Photo Contest Finalists"
Exhibition dates: July 13-October 26
West Wall Gallery, Eberhard Center, Pew Grand Rapids Campus

Every year, hundreds of Grand Valley students travel around the globe during study abroad programs through the Padnos International Center. Students and alumni were invited to share their worldly adventures by entering pictures into the 2017 Study Abroad Photo Contest. Winning photographs, which are now a part of Grand Valley’s permanent art collection, will be on display during this exhibition in the Eberhard Center. 

"Wandering Seeds: Experiencing and Engaging Haiti Through Study Abroad”
Exhibition dates: July 20-December 14
Red Wall Gallery, Lake Ontario Hall, Allendale Campus

“The tall tree says it sees far, the wandering seed says it sees more.” This translation from a Haitian proverb served as the theme for a recent service-learning expedition to Haiti by a group of a dozen Grand Valley faculty and students. The trip, led by Peter Wampler, professor of geology and Frederik Meijer Honors College Faculty-in-Residence, was designed to allow students from various academic backgrounds the opportunity to experience Haitian culture and gain an understanding of daily life in rural Haiti. Students also participated in a variety of service learning and community-based teaching experiences, allowing them to apply their energy and knowledge toward real-world problems in Haiti. During the first part of the trip, Ellen Adams, Meijer Honors College assistant professor and Grand Valley Art Gallery staff member, also assisted in mediating experiences with Haitian artists and art collectives at various sites. Included in this exhibition will be narratives and reflections by both faculty members and students, photographs documenting their encounters and a variety of original Haitian paintings, voodoo flags, metal art and masks representing the vibrant and diverse artistic culture in Haiti.

For more information about upcoming Art Gallery exhibits, visit or call (616) 331-2563.