art students hang gallery exhibit

Students in Dr. Holly Rubalcava’s art history class hang prints in the University Gallery ahead of the Dec. 8 opening of “The Art of Humanity.”

Dec. 6, 2023–Missouri Western State University’s University Gallery will open a new exhibit on Friday, Dec. 8. A reception will be held on Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. in Leah Spratt Hall, room 211. The new exhibit, “The Art of Humanity,” is a collaboration between students in an art history class and the University Gallery.

ART 255 – Survey of Art History II is an arts class that also meets general education requirements, so Dr. Holly Rubalcava sees students from all majors. The students assisted gallery curator Bailey McCulloch with several aspects of planning this exhibit. As Missouri’s official applied learning institution, Missouri Western students in dozens of disciplines are able to apply their learning in real-world situations. 

Alex Kessinger is a second-year digital animation major who was surprised to learn that Missouri Western has an onsite collection of works from both local and national artists. Kessinger said the project was mostly independent with some direction from Dr. Rubalcava and McCulloch.

Through this project, students learned the hard skills necessary to plan and market an art exhibit, but they also learned the soft skills necessary in every job on the market today. Those skills include research, problem solving, teamwork and communication. Kessenger said her most valuable takeaway from this applied learning experience was learning to work in a large group with different people.

“You get different ideas, and you’re all learning how to make something together,” Kessinger said.

McCulloch selected approximately 60 pieces to start and the students, as a group, narrowed it down to the 27 items to be displayed in the exhibit. The students chose the theme for the exhibit and each student was assigned a piece to become the expert.

Students were then divided into three groups: art handling, marketing design and social media. The group responsible for art handling framed pieces, planned the layout of the exhibit and hung each item. The marketing and design group created flyers and signs used to market the event. The social media team planned and managed a social media marketing campaign, including challenges that would get their fellow students into the gallery space.

Kessinger worked on the art handling team, but a scheduling conflict prevented her from working with the team for setup. Instead, she assisted McCulloch with disassembling the prior exhibit to make room for the new one. 

Dr. Rubalcava explained the value of seeing art in person as one of the students’ “aha moments” in the project. Students were already familiar with the art pieces when they went to the gallery to work with McCulloch. However, when they saw the art first-hand, they were surprised at how much different it looked. Another “aha moment” came when the art handling team was hanging the pieces.

“As each piece kept going up, they kept going, ‘Wow, we did this,’” Dr. Rubalcava said. “It was amazing to see them excited about this thing they put together.”

Every employee at Missouri Western is an educator, and McCulloch is no exception. Dr. Rubalcava was impressed with McCulloch’s willingness to work with the class and collaborate on a project like this. The Art of Humanity will be on display in the University Gallery through May 2024. 

–News release written by Patty Lashbrook, sophomore convergent journalism and public relations major.

Missouri Western State University is a student-centered learning community preparing individuals for lives of excellence through applied learning. Missouri Western is located in St. Joseph, Mo., and is committed to the educational, economic, cultural and social development of the region it serves. Visit