Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

SMC Art Gallery features decade of campus event posters

01/21/2020 - 10am
Mike O’Brien

Southwestern Michigan College Art Gallery’s first 2020 exhibit catalogs with a colorful timeline SMC on-campus events of the last decade.

“Archive: A Selection of Most, If Not All of the Posters that SMC Marketing Department has Printed for Campus Events, c. 2010-2019” charts the evolution of graphic design technology and visual communication strategies, including The Toilet Paper. More than 300 copies of the placard are posted each month in bathroom stalls across both SMC campuses.

Organized with SMC alumna and former marketing intern Jacquelyn Drewyor, January’s show features posters representing the work of professionals and students promoting musicals, plays, concerts, academic speakers, workshops and recruiting events sequenced to present a holistic approach of how a college communicates with its communities.

Vice President of Enrollment and Student Development Mike O’Brien, who oversees marketing, was skeptical of Visual and Performing Arts Chairman Marc Dombrosky’s idea until he saw stories the posters tell.

The Toilet Paper

“There’s a lot of cool stuff happening here,” O’Brien said. “Art galleries typically feature retrospectives by one or two artists. Or, you may have a particular topic to which a few artists contribute. This exhibit is the work of dozens of interns, graphic designers and student workers over 10 years. That’s unusual, to get that many people involved in one exhibit.

“Computer technology, the tools used to make this art, has advanced quite a bit since 2010. These have been done on multiple generations of equipment,” O’Brien said. “Each poster is about one specific event with the goal to stop you, inject information about why you should attend and when and where the event is happening. As soon as it’s over, it became obsolete until Jac resurrected and curated it here.”

“All of this work was created basically on two desks in the marketing offices in Briegel 2105,” O’Brien said. “Rarely will you see this much artwork done over a decade in the same 20x20 space. Typically, artists do things out in the field or in their own workspaces. Of course, Marketing also produces video, social media and lots of other things. This is a small representation of two-dimensional, colorful work Marketing has done over those years.
“As much as this is anybody’s vision, it’s Marketing Manager Michelle Orlaske’s because she supervised all of this work. She mentored many students who went on to successful graphic design careers, but also reached many thousands of our students over a decade whose lives and college experiences have been enriched by experiencing these events.”

Orlaske thanked retired instructor Bill Rothwell and Assistant Professor Sam Walker for the training students receive before arriving to work at her office.

“These are a little more fun because they were for on-campus,” Orlaske said. “In communication we create for off-campus audiences you’ll see our school colors more prominently and it’s more explanatory.”
“This is so much more than I expected,” Rothwell said.

Michelle Orlaske

Graphic Design II students compete to produce the winning program design for Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) events. Students have also designed Christmas cards for the president.

The Toilet Paper, crammed with events, parallels increased on-campus activities developed to enrich student life with the advent of three residence halls over the same period.

“It’s too bad it can’t be a permanent exhibit because it’s a history of who we are and how diverse we are,” Vice President of Instruction Dr. David Fleming said.

“I didn’t expect it to have that yearbook feel until I started installing it,” Dombrosky said.

Posters hang in chronological order in the front gallery, with The Toilet Paper mounted across the rear gallery.

The SMC Art Gallery, room 108, Dale A. Lyons Building on the Dowagiac campus, is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Thursday. The exhibit remains through Jan. 30, followed by “Lea Bult + Janice Kimball: Two Exhibitions” Feb. 3-27 featuring new projects by the art faculty members. A reception takes place at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 12.