As part of the MSU Broad Art Museum’s 10th anniversary year, and our focus on collections and cultural assets in the area, this exhibition explores public art in the Greater Lansing region. Public art takes many forms and is an important part of the landscape; it also often means different things to different people. To some, public art is a way to make a place more engaging, beautified with artistic flourishes that add color and vibrance. To others, public art activates space through community building, asking questions and inviting us to see things differently. Both are meaningful approaches and add to the creativity and quality of place. Public art can also create contentious spaces; not all art placed in the public realm is equally appreciated by all. Part of the impetus behind the exhibition is to highlight and imagine ways that address these issues.
Art Along the River, Grand takes up this subject in an exhibition that celebrates the public art in our region and the unique histories that have been carved into the landscape here. For example, it explores historical projects and proposals by artists like Michael Heizer and Claes Oldenburg. It also presents a critical look at the history of public art and its lack of diversity and inclusivity. In response, the exhibition highlights a number of collections and initiatives in the region that are dedicated to shifting the narrative around what public art is, who it is made by, and who it is for.
Several works and documents from the MSU Broad Art Museum collection lay the foundation for the exhibition. From there, visitors are invited to explore resources and tools that point to the great wealth of creativity and accessible public art that add to the cultural makeup of our cities and region. Whether exploring public art on the MSU campus—or projects like ArtPath by the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center—the exhibition provides a glimpse into the art that surrounds us here, where the waters of the Grand River and the Red Cedar connect us.
Art Along the River, Grand is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Senior Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs Steven L. Bridges, with assistance from Curatorial Research and Administrative Assistant Elijah Hamilton-Wray. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Eli and Edythe Broad endowed exhibitions fund.