New MSU Union Art Gallery Opens

A new art gallery on Michigan State University’s campus is breathing new life into the second floor of the MSU Union.

Managed by the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, the MSU Union Art Gallery opened its doors to the public on Oct. 14, bringing the number of gallery spaces managed by the department to four, including the two galleries in Kresge Art Center and (SCENE) Metrospace.

"Deisgn(er) Meta Game" poster laying on a table. There are game pieces laying on the poster
Design(er) Meta Game, part of the Women in Design exhibition at MSU Union Art Gallery

“We’re very excited about the opening of our new gallery space. It will give us an opportunity to engage a whole new audience that may not be familiar with our student galleries in the Kresge Art Center or SCENE Metrospace, our professional gallery in downtown East Lansing,” said Chris Corneal, Chair of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design. “The MSU Union is the doorway to campus for many guests and we look forward to taking advantage of this high visibility to showcase exciting works created by artists and designers with links to the past, present, and future of Michigan State University.”

We’re very excited about the opening of our new gallery space. It will give us an opportunity to engage a whole new audience.


Located next to the MSU Union Ballroom on the second floor, the 900-square-foot gallery previously was a storage room and coat check, and prior to that it served as a classroom.

“It was all walled in before and it had a roll up door,” said Jacquelynn Sullivan, Director of Galleries for the Department of Art, Art History, and Design. “To transform the space, the wall was removed and replaced with glass; the drop ceiling was taken out; and LED lights and a new track were put in.

“It’s amazing how much brighter it made the second floor feel. It livens up that space with something more visually stimulating, giving people another reason to walk upstairs. And because it has the big glass entry way, even when the space isn’t open, it is; people will still be able to see inside.”

A Focus on Alumni

Whereas the Kresge Art Center galleries focus on current student work and (SCENE) Metrospace has more of a community outreach component, the MSU Union Art Gallery primarily will feature work from Department of Art, Art History, and Design alumni.

“One of the things we in the Art Department like to do is invite our alumni back to highlight the exciting things they’ve done, not only for their sake, but because our current students get to see what our alumni have gone on to do,” Sullivan said. “All the alumni I have spoken to have been really excited and receptive to the idea.

“What’s going to be really exciting about this space is every show is going to be different, and I think that will show one of the strengths of our department. We don’t send students out in the world with everyone making the same work. There are so many amazing alumni who have left our program and have gone on to do really exciting things. We’re going to use this space as a way to bring alumni back to campus and to highlight the things they’ve been doing.”

We don’t send students out in the world with everyone making the same work.


So it’s appropriate that the space opened during MSU’s homecoming week, the same week that the new bronze Sparty monument was unveiled in the MSU Union. The bronze Sparty monument, located on the main floor under the center arch in the upper lobby, was unveiled Oct. 12.

The opening of the new space also is a homecoming of another sort in that it is bringing art exhibitions back to the MSU Union. Before Kresge Art Center existed, art classes were taught in temporary buildings located next to the Union and the Union would host an annual student art exhibition.

Women in Graphic Design Exhibit

The first exhibit at the MSU Union Art Gallery is the Women in Graphic Design show, which runs until Nov. 20, featuring the work of 10 alumnae who have graduated from MSU’s graphic design program.

“We have graphic design alumni who graduated as recently as last spring and as far back as 1963,” Sullivan said. “This exhibit will highlight some of the things they’ve done since they graduated from MSU.”

A reception for the Women in Graphic Design show is planned for Friday, Nov. 11, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Glass wall with the words "Women in Graphic Design"
The Women in Graphic Design exhibition

Throughout the year, four to five exhibitions will be held at the MSU Union Art Gallery with each exhibition lasting eight weeks.

“There will be three to five artists in each show to begin with because I think that’s a good balance for the amount of space that we have,” Sullivan said. “This way we are inviting artists to bring in a couple pieces, not everything that they’ve got.”

The new gallery also is ideal for solo exhibitions.

“(SCENE) Metrospace is about 1,500 square feet and is a little bit too big for a solo show unless you have really big work or a large body of work, whereas this space is a lot more inviting for a solo exhibition,” Sullivan said.

Graduate Assistantship

The new gallery also has a graduate assistantship appointment connected to the space. The student appointed to that position will help with every step in the process of each exhibit, including planning, curating, installing, and deinstalling. Chelsea Young, an M.F.A. candidate in the the Studio Art program who is studying printmaking, was selected as the first person to fill this appointment.

“Chelsea spent the last two years working at the Broad Art Museum,” Sullivan said. “This will be a good opportunity for her to apply the skills she’s already gained and take them a step further and to have a little bit more of an authoritative role in the process.”

The MSU Union Art Gallery is open noon-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday; noon-7 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

The gallery also will keep the same hours in between exhibitions so people can come in and see what happens during that process.