Looking In, Looking Out


May 01 2009 - Dec 12 2009

Looking In, Looking Out:
Highlights from the
Permanent Art Collection

The permanent art collection of the DeVos Art Museum and Northern Michigan University tells a story of the generous donors who have helped build the eclectic collection over the past twenty years. Over ninety-five percent of the 1,000-object collection was donated from the Bennett, Losey and Secord families as well as the numerous individual artists who have donated their own work. The museum’s permanent art collection is due in major part to the tireless efforts of previous museum Director Wayne Francis, who retired in 2007.

The “character” of university art museums (and most museums) comes from the holdings in the permanent collection, and the DeVos Art Museum and Northern Michigan University collection is a diverse group of art, artifact and ephemera. This exhibition, for the first time, showcases the major areas of the collection together in the same space. This display celebrates the strengths that represent over ninety percent of the collection: 20th Century illustration and design, local and regional contemporary art, Native American art and artifact, and modern Japanese prints. The gallery is divided into four “mini-exhibitions” which display highlights from each respective area of the collection. Dr. Adriana Greci-Green, Assistant Professor at the Center for Native American Studies at NMU, curated the Native American section with assistance from Art History major Amy Ziegler. Dr. Mitsutoshi Oba, Assistant Professor in the School of Art and Design at NMU, curated the Japanese section with assistance from Kasie Veen, a recent graduate of the Art History program at NMU. A special thank you to Dr. Green and Dr. Oba for lending their time and expertise in Native American and Japanese art and culture, respectively and to Amy Ziegler and Kasie Veen for assisting with research, writing, and organization for the exhibition.

The DeVos Art Museum continues to grow as it becomes a regional center for the arts. With this growth the museum continues to focus on its mission of “being an artistic learning laboratory for the NMU, Upper Peninsula and Upper Midwest region.” In order to fulfill this mission, the museum aims to expand the knowledge about and conservation of the permanent art collection. Research on specific objects and artists within the collection is ongoing with the assistance of NMU students and community volunteers. Recently the museum received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to bring a conservator to the museum to complete a General Preservation Assessment Survey (GPAS). Neil Cockerline, Director of Preservation Services at the Midwest Art Conservation Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota) will visit the museum in May 2009 to complete the survey. The GPAS is an important first step in improving the museum’s ability to care for the collection. A written report of conservation and preservation priorities is a crucial first step in creating a preservation plan and applying for future funding to conduct object conservation.

As the museum pauses to reflect on the rich history of the collection through this exhibition, we also look to the future to continue to provide the NMU and wider communities the opportunity to experience original works of art and to foster educational opportunities for all audiences through exhibitions, programs and publications. This fall, a series of special programs, tours, and lectures will be offered; visit the museum’s website for more information.

Melissa Matuscak, Director and Curator

Support for this exhibition provided by the DeVos Art Museum’s membership program, The Friends of the DeVos Art Museum.