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Student paintings featured in informal gallery

Arts Apr 20, 2023
A man stands in an office doorway
A man stands in an office doorway

KOKOMO, Ind. — When Michael Tulley came out of retirement to fill in for a year at Indiana University Kokomo, he didn’t just put up a few family pictures in his temporary office.

He opened an art gallery.

Tulley, emeritus professor of education and acting dean of the School of Education, refers to his space featuring student artwork as the “Starving Artists Gallery.”

“As you can tell from my office walls, there are some talented students on this campus,” Tulley said. “My little gallery isn’t a big deal, but I’m proud of it, and I think it’s an uncommon way to support students. It has added a lot of color and interest to my temporary office, and also much joy in my return to campus this year.”

He recently invited student artists to visit and see their work displayed.

“It’s really cool,” said Coby Woodring, who is a secondary visual arts education major. “I didn’t expect to sell my work so soon.”

For Brendan Coleman, seeing his self-portrait in the informal gallery is a stamp of approval.

“To have somebody see it and say, ‘I want this,’ is gratifying,” he said.

The gallery began after Aaron Pickens, assistant professor of new media, asked Tulley to observe a fall semester painting class to critique his teaching, as part of his professional development. A self-portrait by one student caught Tulley’s attention, and he asked if he could buy it. Quickly, he saw another one he liked, and, “then I was on a roll,” he said.

“After I had acquired the first few self-portraits, it occurred to me that it would be cool if I could purchase one from each of the 14 students in the class I observed,” he said. Eventually, he bought paintings from 12 of them, with the other two not having anything they wanted to sell. He’s continued to support the painting classes during the spring semester, and now has acquired nearly 20 paintings.

He noted that Pickens is part of each conversation about a sale, and helps students determine a fair price, as many have never sold their work. He hopes to buy a few more before the end of the semester.

Pickens said having someone invest in your work is a great confidence booster and may encourage some students to pursue art further.

“I saw several students light up and have a renewed sense of enthusiasm about their work after Michael purchased one of their pieces,” he said. “Having someone purchase your work is both elating and potentially life changing, especially as a student. It demonstrates that the arts have continued importance in this day and age, and that someone sees potential in you as a creative.”

Tulley noted that at some point he will retire again, and the gallery will move with him.

“Someday when I go back into retirement, these will all go in my man cave,” he said.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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