An Art Blog

Outsider’s Guide to Shaffer Art Galleries

Audience: Students who have not yet gone

Time attended: Sunday 12:00

The Shaffer Art Building does not have many special characteristics to make it stand out on campus. It has regular doors, classrooms, and lecture halls. This could be why the hidden gem of the SU Art Gallery stays hidden.

Once in the building, the Art Gallery is still easy to miss. Sitting behind large glass doors, when you peer in from outside all that can be seen is a few simple paintings and a front desk. This is a misrepresentation of the Gallery’s true size. It currently houses 5 permanent exhibitions and 6 traveling ones. The hours of the museum can be found on the web page in the bottom right corner, http://suart.syr.edu.


Before You Go In…

Realize that this is a museum and not just another hallway of a school building. I myself had forgotten at first and caught myself ignoring front desk staff by continuing to speak loudly, and bringing my bag into the museum with me. WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE was lower my voice when I entered, turned to my left and went into the coat room. Once in there, dropped my bag off in a cubby with my jacket and then proceeded into the galleries. As far as your voice there is no sign that explicitly says to be quiet but it seems to be the unspoken rule to be polite to the other people around you. There is also not a dress code so you can roll out of bed on a lazy Sunday and go check out some art in your pajamas. If you live on campus, it is an easy walk, same distance as going to most classes. Even if you live off campus/on south, just take the bus to College Place and the Shaffer Art Building will be on your left walking towards campus.


You May Get Lost and That’s OK…

While I wandered through the museum, many times I found myself confused on what I was viewing. I do not have much experience with museum and art galleries so I felt like a fish out of water. The Shaffer art gallery’s atmosphere is laid back so you don’t need to be some kind of aficionado to enjoy the works. These are a few spots that you could get lost; 1. once you reach the back follow the walls of pictures to the left not the hallway towards the mural. It’s a dead end and storage. 2. When you get to the Hidden Beauty exhibit (the medical stuff), you are going to have to turn left to get back out. If you keep going straight it will eventually come to a dead end. 3. The Americans in Venice exhibit is tucked away behind the Collection Galleries and is easily missed. Just keep an eye out on the right hand wall.

Again, If you get lost IT IS NOT A BIG DEAL. You can just ask someone for help or retrace your steps. But no one likes feeling out of place so just a heads up on these spots.

Now For the Art

You might Get the Creeps From the First Exhibit…

Once you pass the front desk you come to the first exhibit, KIKI SMITH AND PAPER: THE BODY THE MUSE, AND THE SPIRIT. In my opinion, I thought this exhibit was a little creepy. It surprised me that the museum would start with something so powerful. It seemed like an exhibit that you would find more towards the middle, like the climax of the movie. This was the climax of the museum. It is described as, “ the female figure from every possible perspective – physically, culturally, historically, and personally.” (SU ART) But the art itself was rather graphic. The exhibit includes pictures of small girls being chased by animals, along with paper mâché pieces depicting a woman’s legs with a newborn child between them who has appeared to have been birthed just then, as the umbilical chord is still attached to both mother and child. While viewing all of this, eerie music plays in the background that reminds me of a horror movie right before someone jumps out and scares you. I walked a little faster through this exhibit because I was uncomfortable and did not expect something so intense as soon as I walked in. It was not necessarily a negative feeling because in retrospect, its amazing that a piece of art could invoke such strong feelings in a person observing it. Do not let this feeling stop you from continuing deeper into the gallery!

My Favorite…


Once you get past KIKI SMITH AND PAPER: THE BODY THE MUSE, AND THE SPIRIT, you get to what appears to be the back of the museum. This is one of the places to get lost! Look to your left and follow the pictures. If you see this map you are going the right way.

When you enter this side of the museum TURN TO YOUR RIGHT. Otherwise you will miss the Alfred T. Collete Gallery of Ethnographic Art. (More information on Alfred T. Collete). This Exhibit is filled with artifacts from Western Africa, China, Korea, Japan, Mexico, and Central and South America. It is fascinating to see so many different cultures displayed next to one another and I found myself comparing and contrasting the pieces of culture to one another.

The coolest pieces in my opinion were the decorative masks on the left when you entered the room. The detail of the masks and the carvings found on them were fascinating to me and I wanted to understand their purpose. You can’t find information on this while in the museum but you can find some here, African masks.

Of course, the museum has more than just the two exhibits named here, but these two were the ones that really caught my eye. You may find that the oil paintings in the collection galleries are what strike you the most. Or maybe the medical art found in Hidden Beauty will draw you in. Regardless of what you or may not be interested in, the bottom line is the Shaffer Art Galleries are worth going to and exploring. Take time out of your schedule to take the short walk or bus ride to the museum for a change of pace and to experience something new.

Word count: 1051

Evan. Brownwens. African Masks.http://www.contemporary-african-art.com/african-masks.html.

News Staff. (2014, January 27). Alfred T. Collette Dies; Was Chair of Science teaching, Director of SU Art Collection.https://news.syr.edu/2014/01/alfred-t-collette-dies-was-chair-of-science-teaching-director-of-su-art-collection-81632/.

Syracuse. Syracuse University Art Galleries.http://suart.syr.edu.

Next Post

Previous Post


  1. Liam Owens March 28, 2018

    Wow, very eye-opening I loved this piece! Keep up the good work.

  2. Julia April 1, 2018

    Awesome and informative article! I loved the casual, yet educational tone you used. Your headings made the article very easy to follow. I have also been to Shaffer and i think you has some awesome descriptions of the artwork. It is cool to see you getting so involved in art since I know you have not always been so fond of it.

  3. Pat April 3, 2018 — Post Author

    Holy Cow! I thought this was a great piece and can not wait to go and see it myself! I had no idea how large it is inside. I like this articles flow and how helpful it is to someone who has never been!

Leave a Reply

© 2019 WRT205

Theme by Anders Norén