The University of Central Missouri Gallery of Art and Design rings in the new year with two exhibitions and two creative workshops, one for kids and one for grownups.

All of these exhibits and opportunities are open to the public, and are in addition to opportunities to meet and hear from individuals who are helping to make the main exhibits possible.

The two exhibitions in the main art Gallery are on view Jan. 8 to Feb. 1. This includes “Empowered by Design,” an exhibition produced by Scott Barton, guest curator, and “Second Nature,” which highlights the artistic processes of a Missouri sculptor, Gary Staab.

On Monday, Jan. 8, Stabb will talk about his work as part of the Kleppe Visiting Artist Lecture Series at UCM. His presentation takes place at 4 p.m. in Wood Building, Room 100. Individuals who cannot attend in person, are invited to participate virtually. Free Zoom registration is required. Immediately following, there will be a meet-the-artist reception for Staab from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in UCM Art Center Gallery, Room 115.

Barton will moderate a virtual panel discussion at 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22, which can be seen in Wood Building, Room 100. This program is also available online.  Free Zoom registration is required. A public reception celebrating the exhibition is planned from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24, with remarks by Barton beginning at 4 p.m.

According to Gallery Director, Jamie Platt, Barton is an architect in the truest sense of the word with an integrated philosophy of design that reaches across disciplines to look at what design is and what it does. He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Interior Architecture and Industrial Design at Kansas State University. Barton has practiced nationally and internationally sharing his expertise in areas ranging from educational environments to international hospitality, from large-scale mixed-use projects to small-scale crafted objects. Most recently, he served as Vice President and Senior Partner at Hollis and Miller Architects, leading firm-wide design strategies and developing industry-leading integrated design practices.

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Barton earned a Bachelor of Architecture from Kansas State University in 1996. After working in New York City and Kansas City, he developed a passion and focus on education. In 2019, he earned a Master of Education in Learning Design and Technology from Arizona State University.

Barton believes in an integrated design approach, blurring the lines between disciplines to create more impactful design solutions. As an active member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the International Interior Design Association (IIDA), he received the IIDA Mid-America Vision Award in 2021. He served on the Board of Directors for the KC Social Innovation Center and held advisory leadership positions for the University of Missouri and Pittsburg State University.

The “Empowered by Design” exhibition includes an impressive roster of creative contributors, some of whom refer to themselves as artists and some as designers. Among such individuals is Brian Lee, a designer who fabricates interactive elements that operate at the intersection of architecture, furniture, body scale, and urban scale. He holds a patent for an articulated chair that is the subject of a viral video that garnered 39 million views. Exhibition visitors can see one of his creations in person.

When speaking about his curatorial process and the new UCM exhibit, Barton noted, "’Empowered by Design’ is an exceptional art exhibition that seeks to illuminate the profound impact of design on individuals. Through a captivating collection of artworks, this exhibition celebrates the ability of design to inspire, motivate, and empower. It explores how understanding the design process can transform how designers think and feel, shaping their thoughts, feelings, and outlook on life, highlighting the powerful connection between creativity and personal growth."

He added that the artists featured in this exhibition are storytellers of transformation. They harness their unique visions to reveal the transformative potential of design, and their creations serve as visual narratives, giving visual testament to the notion that design is not just about aesthetics. “The artists' creations allow viewers to reflect on how design can empower and uplift individuals, catalyzing change in one's perception of the world and allowing them to envision new possibilities and imagine a different future,” Barton said.

‘Empowered by Design’ is an invitation to explore the world of art and design from a fresh perspective, to appreciate how design can ignite change, spark inspiration, and pave the way for personal growth and exploration. Through diverse artistic expressions, this exhibition invites individuals to embark on a journey where creativity knows no bounds and design is the driving force behind personal evolution.

“’Empowered by Design’ is a delight,” said Gallery Director, Jamie Platt. “This is exactly what is needed at the beginning of the year, when minds are already primed to look afresh at familiar things. If you’re a designer, prepare to be reinvigorated. If you’re not a designer, get ready to think about the design of things around you in a whole new way."

“Second Nature” gives gallery visitors a look at the lifelike models of creatures from prehistory and beyond that Staab has created in his studio. His work is in the collections of institutions such as the Smithsonian and the National Geographic Museum, and commissions have taken him into such rare places as King Tut’s Tomb, according to Platt. Some of Staab’s sculptures are intimate in scale, including a small bronze body of a baby bird visitors can see in the exhibition at UCM. Sometimes they are monumental in scale, the kind that hover over visitors at natural history museums.

“Have you ever wondered how these get made? Are you wondering now? ‘Second Nature’ is a small exhibition that opens a large window into this process,” Platt noted. “Visitors to ‘Second Nature’ will see examples of Staab’s models along with process graphics and video."

In addition to these gallery exhibitions, the popular workshop, “Gallery Kids” is back for the 2024 spring semester. This free event is from 10:30 a.m. to noon at the gallery. Children ages 5 to 15 years old are invited to join UCM Art Education students for a Saturday morning of creativity and art. The workshop size is limited, and registration is required. Interested individuals should call the gallery at 660-543-4498 for more information.

Rounding out its spring semester offerings, from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, the Gallery of Art and Design will introduce a new workshop for adults. With the theme, “Crafternoon,” Gallery Grownups is a fun exhibition. Registration is required, and there is a $5 admission fee that will be collected at the event to cover materials, instruction and treats. Visa/Mastercard debit/credit cards and cash are accepted.

Free parking is available in the Faculty and Staff lot across Clark Street from the Art Center. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Free parking is available  at the visitors lot at Clark and Holden streets. For more information contact the Gallery Director by phone at (660) 543-4498 or by email to

In the photo: Missouri sculptor Gary Staab will display his work at the University of Central Missouri's Gallery of Art and Design during the “Second Nature” exhibition that opens on Jan. 8.

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