Dennos Museum Center Opens Two New Exhibitions Focusing on Michigan Artists and Architecture

The Dennos Museum Center’s fall exhibitions will open to the public on Tuesday, September 22nd and close on January 31, 2021. Instead of a members opening reception, we will hold two separate virtual Zoom events featuring James Haefner, the photographer of Michigan Modern, and Joel Zwart, Curator of Exhibitions at the Grand Valley State University Art Gallery. Both will be joined by Curator of Education Jason Dake to discuss each exhibition and focus on several works in the galleries. Dates are yet to be determined for these events, but more information can be found at

Michigan Modern: An Architectural Legacy

This exhibit celebrates Michigan’s incredible modern architectural design history from 1928 through 2012. It is comprised of over 50 photographs by James Haefner primarily for the State Historic Preservation Office as part of their Michigan Modern Project, and featured in the book by State Historic Preservation Officer Brian Conway titled Michigan Modern: An Architectural Legacy. Several additional photographs from Mr. Haefner’s archives are also included. The buildings photographed were selected to represent the best modern architecture in all areas of the state focusing on the work of Michigan architects as well as internationally known architects who completed commissions in Michigan.

These photographs and the book continue the important work of the State Historic Preservation Office in studying and documenting Modernism in Michigan. Known as the Michigan Modern Project, it began in 2008 with extensive research and context development together with identification of significant Modern architecture in the state. This led to a dozen or so listings of Modern resources in the National Register of Historic Places together with the elevation of three properties to National Historic Landmark status: the Eero Saarinen designed General Motors Technical Center in Warren, the Mies van der Rohe designed Lafayette Park housing complex in Detroit, and Minoru Yamasaki’s McGregor Memorial Conference Center in Detroit. The Eliel Saarinen designed Cranbrook and the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio were already listed as National Historic Landmarks. The project revealed and documented the significant role Michigan played in the development of Modern design and received national attention.

Mathias J. Alten: An Artist at the Turn of the Century

The German-born American artist, Mathias Joseph Alten (1871-1938) immigrated to the United States in 1889 at the age of seventeen. His family settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a premier furniture-manufacturing center and desired location for immigrants in the late-nineteenth century. Here, amidst a rapidly changing world, Alten went on to establish a family, home, and studio for the entirety of his career.

Over his career, Alten created more than 3,000 works of art, initially influenced by the Barbizon and Hague Schools and later by the Impressionism movement. He repeatedly sought out and celebrated traditional laborers and nostalgic settings even as modernization transformed life in the early twentieth-century. This exhibition celebrates Alten’s life and career with works of art, historic photographs, and personal artifacts drawn from the collection at Grand Valley State University.

GVSU currently holds the largest public collection of Mathias J. Alten. All artwork and objects included in this exhibition are on loan from the GVSU Art Gallery and the GVSU Special Collections & University Archives.

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Mathias J. Alten, Self Portrait, Myself at 66. 1937, Oil on canvas. GVSU Art Gallery. 2009.90.1, Gift of Dianne and Gordon Boozer.

Opened in 1991, the Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College is a premier cultural facility in northern Michigan offering a dynamic array of exhibitions and programs in the visual arts, sciences, and performing arts. The Museum includes temporary exhibition and permanent collection galleries, an elegant sculpture court, and a hands-on Discovery Gallery. The permanent collection features regional, national, and international art from the 19th-21st centuries. The Milliken Auditorium hosts events and concerts with performers from around the world. Visit the Museum Store for great shopping, including a fine selection of Inuit art for collectors.

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