It is Kendall College of Art and Design’s annual Exhibition Week, and there’s a lot to see. Spread across all of their venues and featuring work from more than 17 of their programs of study, it’s mandatory viewing for Grand Rapids' many art enthusiasts.

Art school graduate shows can often prove simultaneously refreshing and tiring; there is a lengthy idealism and purity within each earnest accompanying artist statement. There is also a charming sense of new beginning, of fresh hope, and unexplored horizons. These statements often read like letters from the artist to themselves; a justification of their time spent in art student land—a lonely and indulgent place that can prove very strange indeed.

(Above) Dustin Roger's "Wheelie Wheel", part of a series exploring the emotional toll of miscarriage.

I spent some time on the main floor of The Fed Galleries exploring the MFA Thesis and Excellence Awards shows. Amanda Berry’s "New Richland Museum" Gift Shop was perhaps the most intriguing; I’m still unclear on whether the place even exists and it prompted some pretty voracious and frustrating online research post visit.

The premise of printmaker Jenna Para’s piece "So I Don’t Forget" felt all too familiar and the resulting work was a beautiful ode to the rhythmic nature of the human thought process. Feminist jewelry from Samantha S. Conway was on show—"Of Indeterminate Sex" offered an exciting glimpse into the burgeoning future of gender neutral adornments.

(Above) printmaker Jenna Para's "So I Don't Forget", an Excellence Award Winner

(Above) part of an imposing installation by AJ Cooke: "The Visual Language of Perception and Place"

There was work on show from an enormous variety of disciplines, including interior and industrial design, painting, and art education. The shows I went to see (MFA Thesis and Excellence Awards) run until May 30, so there's still plenty of time to stop by and enjoy all the hard work on show. Exhibition Week runs until 2 p.m. Saturday, May 9 and is spread across all Kendall venues. Galleries are open from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

By Emma Higgins on