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Updated 3:00 PM July 30, 2007




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Alumni art show reconnects University artists

When School of Art & Design graduates reconnect there are some common threads of conversation.

"They talk about materials," said Ginny Russell-Sheldon, chatting with Lenea Howe and other alumni artists under the hospitality tent set up on State Street outside of U-M's Work gallery.
Alumni Ginny Russell-Sheldon, Lenea Howe, Janet McClintock and Kris Hermanson chat outside Work gallery on State Street at the hospitality tent during the art fairs. They joined scores of other art school alumni for the U-M Art & Design Alumni Show and an opening reception July 20. (Photo by Todd McKinney)

"Everyone in the art school knew everyone else," said Janet McClintock, a 1969 graduate. "Even if you didn't know that person as a friend you would know who they were."

"You slept on the floor between classes and you ate right there," Russell-Sheldon recalled.

Work gallery is one of the sites of Reconnecting, the U-M Art & Design Alumni Show, also presented at the Jean Paul Slusser Gallery on North Campus. "It's particularly fitting that part of the alumni show is at Work gallery," said Kate West, director of communications with the School of Art & Design, "because Work gallery is made possible through the support of one of our alums, Penny Stamps."

The show, which runs through Aug. 10, had its opening reception July 20 at Slusser Gallery, complete with an alumna performance piece and scores of alumni who came to see work by fellow artists and talk with classmates.

The exhibition reconnected alumni from across the country, demonstrated the richness of School of Art & Design alumni creative work, and supported undergraduate scholarships through donations by those exhibitors who agree to give 10 percent of their art sale price to a scholarship fund.

Each alumna/alumnus was encouraged to show one work in the non-juried exhibition. Graduates from 1948 through 2006 exhibited works ranging from 2003 graduate Katie Halton's color photograph depicting a street vendor in Thailand with steam rising from his weathered cart, to Julia Ashcom's (B.F.A. 1995) black walnut and stainless steel chair displayed in the Work gallery window, to Gregory Steel's (M.F.A. 2001) mixed media piece Com-oddity, in which a metallic gold corncob rises from a barnyard and a toy couple dances on a wooden stage.

Halton, who runs a local photo studio, spent three hours on the first day of the art fair volunteering at the hospitality tent outside of Work, selling bottles of water to help raise money for the scholarship fund.

"I felt I should give back to the art school for having the chance to exhibit my piece in this show," she said.

"We talked last fall about doing this show and got together for coffee with our friend Betty Smith, director of development at the art school, and that started the ball rolling," said alumna Lenea Howe (B.F.A. 1969) of Saline. She co-chaired the show with college roommate McClintock. "We had an incredible response to our call for artwork and also a good number of volunteers who have worked hard to make this happen, as well as the incredible staff at the art school," Howe said.

"I have had many different occupations during my working years and I have to say that I used my art skills in every position I had, whether it was working in the Pentagon, in real estate, teaching ESL (English as a second language), decorating birthday cakes or recruiting for a Ph.D program," Howe added.

"I was on the (art) unpacking committee and the work was fabulous as we unpacked art from all over the country," said Sue Holdaway-Heys (M.F.A. 1994). "I am quite proud of the number of artists who got involved in this project."

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