Those walking down Grand River Avenue early Sunday afternoon might have witnessed two individuals conjoined by yarn, a dress made entirely out of spoons, and a man dressed in wedding attire, heels and all.
The sidewalk transformed into an impromptu runway as the models headed to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum to model their getups for “Transparency,” the apparel and textile design program’s fashion show. It’s the first of its kind to be held at the museum and one of many initiatives to expand the museum’s presence at MSU.
Along with the apparel and textile design program, under the MSU College of Arts and Letters, the Broad Art Museum has collaborated with the MSU College of Music and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, or RCAH, since opening in November. MSU’s dance program also has found a new stage at Broad, with a proposed dance performance scheduled for May.
Stephen Esquith, the dean of RCAH, said the college truly has formed a symbiotic relationship with the museum. He said several RCAH faculty members have based their curriculum on the exhibitions featuring artists from China, India and Africa. RCAH has allowed the museum to use its theater for events as well.
“It’s breaking boundaries in terms of what counts as art, as well as taking art to other places on campus that don’t typically interact with art and artifacts,” Esquith said. “Leadership in the Broad has been very strong, so we feel real confidence in the kinds of decisions they’re making.”
Aimee Shapiro, the director of education at the museum, said it’s the museum’s duty to continually expand on what can be considered “art.”
“As an art museum, we have a responsibility not just to the students and faculty, but our more immediate community of East Lansing,” Shapiro said. “Part of that is to help people use art to see the world through a different lens and also use those other areas in the university to look at art in a new way. We’re looking at things in an interdisciplinary way as well as in a cross-disciplinary way.”
Although admittedly nervous at first, apparel and textile design senior Cody Sehl said he’s thrilled with the turnout of Sunday’s fashion show, which he designed two pieces for.
“This is huge for us,” Sehl said. “It definitely gives us more credit — this isn’t our art form, but there are some very talented designers, and I’m shocked and impressed by how some of it turned out.”
Since the apparel and textile design program strays from typical ready-to-wear clothing, Rebecca Schuiling, the program’s co-director, said the museum was the perfect place to express the program’s vision.
“We’re an avant-garde program, so we push our students to think beyond a box,” Schuiling said. “We want clothing to be viewed as pieces of art on display.”
Apparel and textile design sophomore Anami Chan, who designed a blue-and-white Victorian dress, complete with a teacup and teapot, said the location brought a whole new edge to her piece.
“It’s sort of an oxymoron, because the Broad is very modern and my piece is very classic,” Chan said. “But it resembles something that could be in a museum, so it kind of fits.”
To break boundaries within artistic expression, Shapiro said it’s important to incorporate mediums, such as music and dance, as well.
“There’s a very strong thread through all the arts,” she said. “Too often, they’re categorized in their separate areas, and they’re not so different. The creative process is very similar, whether you’re a dancer, a writer or a painter. We’re an institution that wants to provide that kind of platform for conversation across disciplines.”
*Looking ahead *
In the near future, the museum also will play host to professors of mathematics and physiology, bringing in panels of experts for group discussions.
Tammy Fortin, the museum’s curatorial program manager, said it would be doing students a disservice to not reach out to all departments possible, even those not typically viewed as artistic.
“The pool of talent here is so rich, it would be silly not to collaborate with and be inspired by each other,” Fortin said. “I think that we all have something to learn from each other’s differences. When we look at art through the lens of a mathematician or somebody who is a physician … We see a more true version of what the work is.”
Throughout its development, Shapiro said the museum’s student docent training and internship programs will allow students to be a driving force in campus-wide participation.
“It is very important for a visitor who comes into our museum to be greeted by a diverse group of people within the museum,” Shapiro said. “At least from an educational perspective, we definitely want the input of students to help build what the museum is and what it will become.”
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