The exhibition “BLOW UP II: Inflatable Contemporary Art” will be coming to the Dennos Museum Center this February.

As we leave the challenges of 2020 far behind us, the Dennos Museum Center team is thrilled to look forward to a new year filled with new possibilities. 2021 is a very special time for us, marking 30 years of extraordinary programs, exhibitions, and performances in our great community up north. And while it’s still unknown how soon before we will all be back face to face in pre-pandemic fashion, we do have much to look forward to and be thankful for in the coming year:

BLOW UP II: Inflatable Contemporary Art (Feb. 21 — May 16, 2021) explores the imaginative ways that air is used as a tool to create large-scale sculptures. The artists in BLOW UP II translate everyday materials and imagery into larger-than-life, yet nearly lighter-than-air art that is rich with meaning, resulting in a wide array of works that are figurative, conceptual, and abstract. Inflatable works are often initially regarded as whimsical or humorous, yet they can contain serious critiques of pop-culture, social norms and the politics of space. BLOW UP II explores the complex relationship between the familiarity of the material combined with serious commentary, creating a dialogue around reinterpretation. Organized by Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, California, and produced in response to their popular 2015 traveling exhibition, BLOW UP I.

Along the way, our curatorial team will partner with several local organizations to produce a series of mini-exhibitions and programs, including NMC, Up North Pride, and Green Elk Rapids. We also hope to celebrate cultural diversity throughout the year by highlighting a number of BIPOC artists and themes.

This includes an exhibition of photographs by New York artist Dex R. Jones running Feb. 14 — March 28, 2021.

Influenced by the cultural richness of his Caribbean heritage and Pan-African studies, Dexter R. Jones unwaveringly removes the veil of self-conscious inhibition by eliminating the preconceived sense of beauty and reveals its true splendor in its vulnerable state. Jones relentlessly pushes the characterization of beauty not often seen. Encompassing a mixture of texture, hues, flesh, and heavy contrast in his editorial photography, his expertise in justly capturing women of vast shades is indicative from his strong matriarchal upbringing. The Brooklyn, NY born photographer utilizes seductive colors and endearing honesty to surpass what is superficial and create a mood that highlights what is his reality. Jones is driven by an infectious passion that is distinctly exposed in the strong subjects he portrays. That desire is translated in the regality of his images.

Finally, we’re honored to be one of 23 venues selected by the Mid-America Arts Alliance and the National Endowment for the Humanities to host Away from Home: American Indian Boarding Schools in fall 2021. This exhibition will overlap with Indigenous Peoples Day and is scheduled for Sept. 1 — Oct. 20, 2021.

This exhibition explores off-reservation boarding schools in its kaleidoscope of voices. Visitors will explore compelling photographs, artwork, interviews, interactive timelines, and immersive environments, including classroom and dormitory settings. Objects such as a period barber chair and a young Seminole girl’s skirt, as well as reproduction elements poignantly illuminate first-person accounts. Stories of tragedy and familial love and friendships intersect. Experiences of gaining things useful and beautiful out of education, despite a formidable, fifty-year agenda that mostly maligned Native American capabilities, call us closer; each trial, each turning of power seeded in human survival, strengthening Indigenous identity.

This exhibition is made possible by NEH on the Road, a special initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It was adapted from the permanent exhibition, “Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Stories,” organized by The Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

On behalf of all of us at the Dennos Museum Center, thank you for your continued support and enthusiastic encouragement over the past ten months. Please consider supporting your community museum center with a direct gift, a membership, or by shopping our terrific online store at shop.dennosmuseum.org.

Until we see each other again, take good care and best wishes for a terrific start to 2021!

Craig Hadley is the executive director and chief curator at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City.

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