A pillar of the Traverse City community, and attraction for all ages, The Dennos Museum continues finding innovative ways of giving back to the people who have supported its mission through uncertain times.
Walking through The Dennos Museum at Northwestern Michigan College, it’s easy to get lost in the extensive, eclectic art collection—there’s a staggering number of works to peruse in this premier cultural facility. Wander from galleries featuring contemporary works by local and international artists alike to one of the largest and most historically complete collections of Inuit art in the U.S. (The museum is home to more than 1,600 works of Inuit art, with only about 10 percent of those works on display at any given time!)
And with the museum’s 2018 expansion—which upgraded gallery space from 10,000 to 20,000 feet—there are even more opportunities to enjoy temporary exhibitions (the museum qualifies for Smithsonian traveling exhibits), permanent galleries, views of an elegant sculpture court and a hands-on Discovery Gallery.
During these uncertain times, it may be increasingly difficult to visit institutions like museums in person, but lucky for us, The Dennos staff have been hard at work this past year ensuring the museum isn’t any less accessible to the public. In fact, The Dennos has doubled down on its commitment to engage, enlighten and entertain members of the public, offering virtual programming and events that provide a behind-the-scenes look at the artists embedded in the regional, national and international art scene.
Making Art Accessible Online
After the pandemic hit earlier this year, The Dennos, like other Northern Michigan institutions, pivoted to meet a need—virtual connection. The museum set up a “pay what you wish” system, so folks interested in participating in a virtual event could pay up to $15, depending on what they could afford.
“That donation-based system has allowed for the programming to be accessible to those who are unable to pay, but also supports our ability to keep presenting programs with artists and musicians by offering them a stipend for their time,” says Chelsie Niemi, audience engagement manager at The Dennos.
This past fall, the museum was able to offer an array of events, such as a recent virtual discussion of the Mathias J. Alten: An American Artist at the Turn of the Century exhibition, which included a video tour of The Dennos galleries with Executive Director Craig Hadley and a presentation by Grand Valley State University Curator of Exhibitions Joel Zwart, followed by a discussion with Zwart, facilitated by Dennos Curator of Education Jason Dake.
The museum also recently offered a virtual screening of the documentary “Power Trip” by Jonathan Scott, which examines the production of energy across the country. For this virtual offering, Dake was joined for a post-screening discussion by Rachel Johnson of Cherryland Electric and City Commissioner and TCLP Board Member Tim Werner.
Niemi says the museum’s virtual mini-series, featuring local and regional musicians and artists, was also a hit with participants, who were able to ask the participating artists questions in real-time.
“Jean Larson, who’s in our collection, was in Iceland at the time. She has a studio there, so that’s where she joined us from,” Niemi recalls. “She showed us her view of the West Fjord and gave us an outdoor tour before showing us what she’s working on right now. It provides connectivity to people.”
To help The Dennos continue to provide these programs, Niemi is hoping museum patrons and lovers of art across Northern Michigan will consider becoming museum members this holiday season.
“A membership is one of the most sustaining gifts people can give to us; but also, that membership gives back to you,” Niemi explains. “You get 10 percent off in the museum store and you get either free or discounted access to all of our programs. Funds from membership are a regular, annual income for us, and we’re able to provide programs at a discounted cost or free to the public, which is part of our mission to help educate and entertain people.”
Plus, Niemi notes that museum members at the $100+ level receive the added benefit of reciprocal membership to NARM and ROAM, which grants free admission to 1,400 museums in North America, including Canada and Mexico.
Get Involved with The Dennos Museum
For more information on how to support The Dennos, visit dennosmuseum.org. Be sure to follow the museum on Facebook (@thedennos) and Instagram (@dennosmuseumcenter) for the latest updates on upcoming events.
Note: The museum is temporarily closed through December 20 due to COVID-19. Regular hours of operation are Sunday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed Fridays and Saturdays.
The Annual Holiday Artist Market Returns
Another easy—and fun!—way to support The Dennos is through its annual Holiday Artist Market, which returns December 1–23 in both an online and smaller in-person format.
Niemi says this year is going to be a more curated show than in years past, and for the first time, it will also be available online with curbside pick-up available.
Craig Hadley, executive director and chief curator at The Dennos, notes that “while many of the museum’s programs have certainly been a challenge to transition to virtual and modified formats, perhaps no other program has required more radical reimagining than the longstanding holiday art sale.” He adds: “Museum Store Manager Nicole Zeiler has done a phenomenal job redefining this popular program for the unique challenges of 2020.”
Thanks to generous financial support from Art Bridges, The Dennos Museum Store recently launched a completely redesigned website with the option for curbside pick-up, providing customers a more comfortable and convenient shopping experience from home.
“We hope to preserve the feel of meeting and interacting with artists by giving customers a peek into the studio or a glimpse at how art is made,” says Zeiler. “This is as new for us as it may be for you, and it offers fun and creative routes to welcome as many customers as we can. You can visit the store website at shop.dennosmuseum.org to view the items from the comfort of your home.
The raffle held during the Holiday Artist Market has traditionally been a fundraiser for the Museum Education Tour Fund, which supports local K-12 student visits to the museum. This year, instead of a raffle for a single fund, the museum is seeking gifts to support subsidized tours for local school groups, improve collections’ care and preservation efforts and provide future free admission days. Staff at The Dennos have identified a need in these three areas to increase accessibility to the museum for all. A gift to The Dennos helps facilitate student visits and programming, preserves art in the collection or gives someone the opportunity to experience a world-class museum in their own backyard. Gifts can be made to the Dennos at dennosmuseum.org/give.
In the event that the Dennos has to close due to the pandemic, the staff has prepared to move the Holiday Artist Market entirely online to continue supporting the regional artists participating. Check the museum store website at shop.dennosmuseum.org for the latest information regarding the market.
Dennos Visitation Policies During Covid-19
- Capacity at the museum is limited to 50 people including all staff on site.
- Capacity within the museum store is limited to six people including a staff person.
- A cloth face covering must be worn over the mouth and nose at all times within the museum.
- Visitors must practice social distancing within the museum and Holiday Artist Market. The floor of the museum will be marked around the market to help visitors maintain their distance.
- If you’re sick, have come into contact with someone who is sick or are unable to wear a face covering, please refrain from shopping in person. The Holiday Artist Market is also available online at shop.dennosmuseum.org with curbside pick-up and shipping.