Wednesday, April 28, 2010

michigan--land of riches

Yesterday afternoon Andy and I went to the amazing Michigan--Land of Riches exhibition at the former location of the Grand Rapids Public Museum. I fell in love with the Deco exterior of the museum when I moved here, but since it had closed in 1994, I had never been inside. When the museum shut down, the exhibits were already in a state of decay. But now artist and curator Paul Amenta, along with students from Kendall College of Art and Design and other local schools, have re-opened and re-energized the old museum.

Many of the exhibits were left as they were, with paint peeling and display lettering missing. They have a ghostly, poignant quality.

I could have spent all day looking at the stacks and stacks of taxidermied animals. In fact, I might have to go back again to do just that.

Artists added to the extant displays, or created their own "exhibits," that were often hilariously funny, and sometimes made thoughtful statements.

A lot of what we saw was just whimsical, enchanting, fun.

I particularly liked the way the artists made interesting use of the old spaces in the museum, creating rooms and vignettes full of atmosphere.

The experience for me--someone totally new to the museum--was strange and wonderful enough. There's a whole other level of nostalgia for Andy and other Grand Rapids natives who grew up visiting the museum many times as children. Andy was alternately tickled and a little freaked out by the experience. (We both found the heavy emphasis the museum seemed to have had on women's anatomy and baby-making a wee bit odd.)

If you're in Grand Rapids or nearby, I highly recommend you visit the exhibition. It's like nothing I've ever seen before, and it's only going to run through mid-May. After that, what will happen to the old Public Museum is up in the air, but I really hope a way will be found to keep the space open to the public somehow.

Oh, and of course I wore vintage to the museum! This 1960s floral print dress.

Afterwards, Andy and I enjoyed our first Outdoor Beer of the season on the Meanwhile's back patio beer garden.




  1. Wow. That looks really amazing! Too bad the exhibit is only open for such a short time. I often take the girls to the Museum of Natural History here in Berlin (also a beautiful old building, but Victorian instead of Art Deco.) They are of course also really big on taxidermy there. Pretty fascinating in a creepy kind of way, especially when they are all dusty and coming apart at the seams...

  2. Wow! I'm just blown away by this.

    It just goes to show how very much the museum concept has changed.

    Out-dated display as art. What an idea.

    I can remember visiting the old NC State Museum of Natural History back in the 1970s, and it was very much in the same vein as the Grand Rapids Museum. But a new building replaced it all. Now I'm wondering what they did with the old stuff.

    The Charleston Museum (SC) has an entire section dedicated to their old taxidermy displays. It's fascinating in a creepy sort of way!

  3. I want to go to there!

    I forgot I checked out this post on my phone when I was out on Friday. That "When to expect baby," is strangely humorous, and I'm loving that artist room with the chair and the glass....and your dress too!

  4. What a crazy place! I would love to see it in person. Love that doorknob. Love the whole building. Great dress you're wearing too!


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