WMU News

Student art gallery opens in Hoekje Hall

April 5, 2004

KALAMAZOO--A ribbon-cutting ceremony for Western Michigan University's newest art gallery will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 8, in the lobby of the Hoekje residence hall. The hall's lobby will now serve as exhibition space for artwork that the building's residents have created to illustrate diversity.

"This past fall, the Hoekje Hall Council came up with the idea of putting in an art gallery as one way of incorporating the hall's theme of diversity," explains Salatha Willis, hall director. "Council members wanted as many cultures represented as possible, so they invited all of the hall's residents to submit artwork."

Willis says about 40 students responded, and nearly 20 works have been selected for display, including a variety of paintings, two murals and half a dozen photographic portraits of students. The student-run Hoekje Hall Council, which provides programs and services for hall residents, funded the project. It picked up the tab for supplies such as canvases and paint, plus the cost of framing and hanging the art.

"I think one of the biggest things that the students who did the artwork got out of this was that they could work together and in doing so, could create something special--something that visually demonstrates diversity," Willis says. He adds that the project also has been important to the students who live in Hoekje. "A lot of international students and a lot of American students say they appreciate seeing something that's out of the ordinary and that the artwork has created a whole different aura for the hall."

Hoekje residents were instrumental in the gallery project's completion. But that's to be expected, Willis says, given WMU's living/learnng-focused residence hall system. "Our halls aren't just places to stay--they're vibrant communities that compliment what happens in the classroom," he says. "Each hall implements initiatives that build a purposefully structured environment for their residents' social and academic success. As part of these initiatives, halls adopt a student learning theme, then shape their educational and social programs around that theme."

Hoekje Hall, one of the University's 22 residence halls, houses some 400 students, about 100 of whom were born outside of the United States. Its living/learning focus on diversity is designed to create an environment that fosters cross-cultural relationships and education.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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