Dennos Museum to expand Inuit Gallery thanks to gift

TRAVERSE CITY ­-- Northwestern Michigan College announced today it has received a $1 million gift to expand the Dennos Museum Center’s signature Inuit art gallery.

The gift is from longtime NMC supporters and Inuit art collectors Barbara and Dudley Smith III, among the college’s most ardent and generous supporters. Over the past 27 years, the couple has given more than $2.4 million to support the Dennos and many other college programs.

The expansion will add about 2,650 square feet to wrap around the existing Inuit Gallery and will include additional storage space for the growing collection, which now stands at nearly 1,500 works.

“We just consider the college northern Michigan’s cultural centerpiece,” said Dudley Smith.

“We love our pieces and we love our museum and we love the college,” Barbara Smith said.

The Smiths have offered generous and broad support to NMC, most recently as a major sponsor of the NMC Scholarship Open for merit scholarships. They were named NMC Fellows, the college’s highest honor, in 1997, and in 2009 received a regional Benefactor award from the Council for Resource Development. Barbara Smith is a member of the NMC Foundation Board.

“Dudley and Barbara Smith are shining examples of the deep support this college has in the hearts of the people of northern Michigan. Their continued and unwavering generosity allow us to build upon our proud history while positioning us for continued success for years to come,” said NMC President Timothy J. Nelson.

NMC’s Inuit collection was started by librarian Bernie Rink in 1960. The growth of the collection was a driving force behind the creation of the Dennos Museum Center 25 years ago. The expansion will also allow more opportunities for NMC instructors to incorporate the collection into their curriculum.

“What a fitting way to celebrate our anniversary by honoring the very artwork that built a reputation for the Dennos as an international leader. This expansion will allow us to grow and refine our collection, securing the Dennos as one of the noted museums world wide for Inuit art,” said Dennos Executive Director Eugene Jenneman.

It was at the Dennos that the Smiths first saw and fell in love with Inuit art. The expanded gallery will one day house their personal collection of about a dozen prints and 40 sculptures, bequeathed to the Dennos in their estate plans.

“We just loved the primitive creativity and the fact that it was done with hand tools—how talented the people are!” said Dudley Smith.

“This is the part of the Dennos that we just absolutely love,” Barbara Smith said. “The artists can take a piece of rock and find the spirit in it.”

Construction will occur at the same time as two new galleries are added to the east side of the museum. That project, funded by a $2 million gift from Diana and Richard Milock, was announced in September.

Nelson hopes to bid the entire project in early 2016 and break ground later in the year.


Northwestern Michigan College is a publicly funded community college that serves more than 50,000 learners annually throughout the Grand Traverse region and beyond. NMC offers associate degrees, professional certificates and bachelor’s degrees. The college is home to the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, the Great Lakes Culinary Institute as well as nationally-recognized aviation and unmanned systems programs. For more information, visit

The Michael and Barbara Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College is the region’s premier cultural center offering world class programming in the visual and performing arts. The museum offers a changing array of exhibitions in three galleries and a sculpture court; features a "hands on" Discovery Gallery; and a Gallery of Inuit art, the museum’s major permanent collection. The museum’s 367­-seat Milliken Auditorium offers concerts in blues, jazz, chamber and world music and hosts the productions of numerous performing arts groups in the region. For more information, visit

Release date: December 16, 2015

For more information:

Rebecca Teahen
Executive Director for Resource Development and Foundation
(231) 995­1855


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