MARQUETTE – A busy autumn is on tap for the DeVos Art Museum, which is on the campus of Northern Michigan University.

But contrary to misconception, the museum is not just for NMU students: It’s open to the public, free of charge, seven days a week.

“This fall we have an exciting lineup of exhibitions as well as special events,” said Melissa Matuscak, museum director and curator. “Many people don’t realize that besides being a free and open to the public art museum, we also host several events throughout the year which are also free and open to the public. We always have receptions so visitors have a chance to meet the artists first hand. Receptions often feature live music or some other program.

“Our receptions are really fun – besides the art and live music we also work with Chef Nathan Mileski from NMU on a beautiful spread of complimentary hors d’oeuvres and beverages that are often sourced locally,” Matuscak said. “But for the Oct. 11 reception for the Society of Illustrators exhibition and Rabbit Island exhibition, we will be doing something a little different. New York City-based Chef Kelly Greary from Sweet Deliverance Catering spent time on Rabbit Island over the last two summers. Chef Kelly will be collaborating with Chef Nathan on the menu for that reception to reflect the spirit of the residency program at Rabbit Island.”

Rabbit Island, located in Lake Superior off the coast of the Keweenaw Peninsula, has become an artists’ haven drawing attention nationally, including a recent feature story in The New York Times.

A exhibit that opened this week is called “What is a Trade.”

“The back gallery of the museum has a really amazing show that is up for most of the semester,” Matuscak said. “Donald Fels is an artist based in Seattle who had a Fulbright award to work in India for a year in 2005. He worked with three signboard painters in the southern city of Kochi – formerly Cochin – which is the place where Vasco da Gama first landed in search of spices. Scholars often see this as the beginning of global trade, and the effects of global trade are still being felt in that area as the signboard painters are now out of work due to digital technology.

“On Oct. 16, Donald will be here to give a talk and then we’ll have a reception. He’s also here to train the museum’s volunteer docents to prepare them to give tours to local K-12 children in October and November.”

But that’s not nearly all that’s going on this autumn at DeVos.

“October is always a busy month for us, programming-wise,” Matuscak said. “We’ll have the illustrator John Hendrix here to give a talk Oct. 30. I worked with Steve Hughes, the illustration professor in the School of Art and Design at NMU, on finding one of the artists in the Society of Illustrators traveling exhibition that is on display to come to campus. He’ll visit with the students during the day then give a talk in the evening.

“We also have two non-exhibition related events,” she said. “We try to screen at least one film per semester, and we will be screening the film ‘1913 Massacre,’ which was filmed in Calumet. The filmmakers spent time in Calumet researching the tragedy at the Italian Hall in 1913 where someone yelled ‘fire’ in the crowded hall and several people, many children, were killed in the rush to escape. There was no fire.

“The tragedy left a deep impact on the town and the film makers explore that with the film,” Matuscak said. “We are lucky to be collaborating with both the NMU American Association of University Professors and Save the Wild U.P. to bring the film makers to Marquette for a Q&A after the screening.”

November will bring another special exhibit to the DeVos.

“We wrap up the fall special events with a talk about J.M. Longyear on Nov. 9,” Matuscak said. “We wanted to collaborate with the Marquette History Center on a program since they have a wonderful exhibition about Longyear on display. The DeVos has a few hundred photographs and glass slides that Longyear took while on his travels in Europe. We’ve had an intern, Craig Neeson, organizing and researching these slides and he will give a talk about his project and the importance of these images today – many are wonderful images of pre-war ravaged Europe.”

The semester ends with the NMU School of Art and Design Fall 2013 Senior Exhibit from Dec. 2-13, with a closing reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 13.

For more information on the DeVos, visit www.nmu.edu/devos or facebook.com/devosartmuseum.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is rprusi@miningjournal.net