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School of Art & Design opens new State Street exhibition venue

The School of Art & Design’s (SoAD) new exhibition venue on State Street, called Work, opened recently with the highest attendance of any exhibition reception in the school’s history.

The opening celebration for Work, at 306 State St., drew more than 1,200 people during the three-hour reception Nov. 15. Visitors viewed the inaugural exhibition, entitled “The Directors Cut: Selected Work from the 2002 Student Awards Show.” Many attendees commented that it felt urban, like an opening in a major city. Search lights panned the skies and the word “Work,” illuminated in blue light on the sidewalk, marked the entrance to the gallery.
Colin Matthes, a second-year graduate student and a mixed media/installation artist, studies the art in Work, the School of Art & Design’s new exhibition venue on State Street. (Photo by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)

The establishment of this new exhibition venue is a milestone for the school. Work is the school’s first exhibition space in proximity to the University’s Central Campus since art became a program at the University in 1926, and the first presence of any kind in the Central Campus area since the school moved to North Campus in the 1970s.

“As the school’s capability to contribute effectively to the University and Ann Arbor communities grows, establishing a physical presence in those communities is essential,” SoAD Dean Bryan Rogers says. “Work will be the school’s third facility beyond its North Campus home opened during the past year—the other two being the Faculty Studios Facility at 1250 N. Main St. and the Graduate Student Studios Facility at 1631 S. State St.

“Work would have remained an unrealized goal without the vision and support of Penny W. and E. Roe Stamps,” he says. “Their generosity has enabled the development and operation of this new venue. Penny Stamps, a 1966 alumna of School of Art & Design, has the highest regard for her educational experience at the school and the University."

Located on the former site of Harmony House Records, and leased by the SoAD, the two-floor, 2,600-square-foot storefront space has been renovated with new flooring on both levels, mechanical repair, museum-quality lighting and an oak exterior restored to its original luster. "Before the renovation began we visited galleries in New York and Chicago to get ideas," says Gregory Steel, the newly appointed Work director. "We think the new space compares favorably with the best exhibition facilities in major urban art centers."

A graduate of the SoAD and an exhibiting artist, Steel directs an exhibition venue that addresses professional and educational missions. Dedicated primarily to showcasing the efforts of SoAD undergraduate students, Work will feature all media and foster traditional and experimental approaches.

"The students will have responsibility for much of the planning and labor that goes into conceptualizing and creating exhibitions," Steel says. "We want to give them practical, hands-on experiences that will be useful in their future ventures as artists and designers. Eventually we plan to include workshops, demonstrations and presentations as part of our public programming.”

The current exhibition will remain in place until Jan. 5.

Work is open 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and noon–5 p.m. Sunday. It is closed Thanksgiving and the following day, as well as Dec. 1 in observance of A Day Without Art.

For more information, call (734) 998-6178.



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