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Newsletter: Mari Michener Gallery Activities 2021-22

The Mari Michener Gallery Re-envisioned:
Encouraging Increased Campus Engagement with a Student-Focused Exhibition Space

by Rachel Dineen, Teaching & Outreach Librarian
and Kate Johnson, Library Technician, Archives & Special Collections
Attendees at El Movimiento reception Fall 2021
Attendees at the El Movimiento exhibit celebration, September 16, 2021

The start of the fall semester brought with it a new start for the Mari Michener Gallery, the main exhibition space in Michener Library. The proposal for the re-envisioning of the Gallery, written by Libraries faculty and staff, outlined the space as “a forum to acknowledge and amplify issues of cultural, historical, or artistic significance” that features the diverse voices of the UNC community. Kicking off with El Movimiento: The Chicano Movement in Colorado, an exhibit that documents the Chicano activists in Colorado who fought to end discrimination, the re-envisioned Mari Michener Gallery strives to showcase a wide and rotating range of voices, mediums, and experiences.

The changes to the Mari Michener Gallery prompted the formation of the Libraries Gallery Committee. The group is comprised of representatives from all levels of University Libraries personnel, including administration, staff, and faculty. Dr. Kiki Gilderhus of the College of Performing and Visual Arts also serves as a member. The committee’s main purpose is to provide direction and make decisions for exhibitions within the Mari Michener Gallery. Since the beginning of the semester, the committee has taken on a variety of tasks, such as reviewing proposals for exhibitions, working with outside stakeholders on exhibition content, event planning and promotion, and the installation/de-installation process.

After months of preparation and coordination, El Movimiento debuted in late August and was almost immediately visited by over 100 educators from Greeley-Evans School District 6. Faculty members from the department of Chicana/o and Latinx Studies (CLAS) and University Libraries Archives and Special Collections guided teachers through the exhibit, which unpacks the struggles and triumphs of Chicano activists in Colorado in the 1960s and 1970s. Following their visit, many of the teachers incorporated what they learned about the Mexican Americans’ struggle against exploitation into their lessons, and several high school classes even took a field trip to UNC to view the new exhibit.

The campus at large has also been taking advantage of the exhibit. For example, in October, the Methods of Teaching Social Studies class visited the exhibit, and the teachers-in-training used the historical artifacts to inspire their lesson planning. University Libraries also partnered with CLAS, District 6, the High Plain Library District (HPLD), and UNC’s César Chávez Cultural Center to develop a robust semester’s worth of programming associated with the themes explored in El Movimiento. The scheduled activities included read-aloud programs at High Plains Library District, speakers coming to campus, and cultural events.

Many of the teachers incorporated what they learned about the Mexican Americans’ struggle against exploitation into their lessons, and several high school classes even took a field trip to UNC to view the new exhibit.

Performance by Mariachi Internacional
Mariachi Internacional performs at the El Movimiento exhibit celebration, September 16, 2021

Michener library hosted the Exhibit Opening Reception on September 16th, where close to 200 students, faculty, university administrators, and community members mingled, enjoying conversations around the exhibit, treats from a local bakery, and the celebratory live music provided by Mariachi Internacional.

The spring semester will be host to two shorter, 8-week exhibitions. The first is an open-call, juried exhibition focused on life during a pandemic. Reflecting Back, Looking Forward is an opportunity for UNC students from all majors or areas of study to showcase their creative talents. A first of its kind in the Mari Michener Gallery, this exhibition will provide a platform for student artistry and self-expression. The show will run from the beginning of the spring 2022 semester through Spring Break, with a reception on January 27 from 4-6pm.

The second exhibition, scheduled to follow Spring Break, will be a diorama-making contest featuring everyone’s favorite springtime treat: marshmallow Peeps. Creativity and collaboration are highly encouraged in this competition open to the entire UNC community. More details about the Libraries Gallery Committee and current or upcoming exhibitions can be found here:

District 6 educators at El Movimiento exhibit

District 6 educators visit the El Movimiento exhibit, Fall 2021

Archives & Special collections employees prepare the El Movimiento exhibit
Archives & Special Collections staff prepare the El Movimiento exhibit, Fall 2021