The Mercer Gallery
If you want to check out some of the best contemporary art in Southwest, Kansas, then head on over to the Mercer Gallery. You will find fascinating works created by a range of student, local, national, and international artists. However, the main mission of the gallery is to provide an opportunity for student artists to showcase their work, observe the work of visiting professionals, and develop the skills and experience needed for a career in art.
The Mercer gallery traces its roots to Mr. Clyde Mercer, a local farmer, teacher, pilot, welder, musician, and artist – a true Kansas renaissance man. After he passed away, his wife, Maxine Mercer Porter, honored his memory by creating an endowment to open a contemporary art gallery in Garden City.
In 1989, Mrs. Porter’s dream became a reality when the Mercer Gallery opened to the public, giving Garden City Community College (GCCC) students, Garden City residents, and interested visitors access to stimulating contemporary art. Since then, the gallery has hosted over 300 exhibitions, showcasing a wide variety of artists working in all types of 2D and 3D media.
Mercer Gallery Hours
- Monday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
- Tuesday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
- Wednesday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
- Thursday: 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM
- Friday: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Mercer Gallery Admission
- Admission is free
The Mercer Gallery Today
Currently, the gallery is operated by and located at GCCC. You can find the gallery inside the west wing of the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts Building, which is on the north side of the campus just west of the Warren L. Fouse Science and Math Building. You can access the gallery via the north Fine Arts parking lot. A “Mercer Gallery” canopy marks the door.
When you enter Mercer Gallery, don’t expect a cold, sterile environment. The space is designed to be warm and welcoming to celebrate artists and the visitors interested in their work. As you pass through the oak doors, you enter a tranquil space of fabric-covered displays, carefully controlled lighting, and tastefully arranged, multidisciplinary exhibits.
Along with other exhibition areas, the gallery has two main display rooms for showcasing large hanging or freestanding works. For anyone who thinks scrolling through art on Instagram is as good as the real thing, experiencing large-scale exhibits will help you understand the difference. There’s no substitute to witnessing works of art with your own eyes.
The gallery also provides a work-study gallery assistant position for students who wish to pursue careers in the arts. This is a rare opportunity for students to gain genuine professional gallery experience right here in Garden City.
Art Oasis in Garden City
The gallery typically hosts between eight and ten art shows and receptions per year. For students at GCCC, they can learn how to exhibit their work as well as observe and reflect on the work of seasoned pros. For gallery visitors, they can experience an interesting mix of work from developing artists as well as experienced creators.
Throughout the year, you will find an eclectic blend of art exhibitions created by students and professors as well as local, national, and international contemporary artists. Generally, gallery exhibits are about 20% student work, 40% local artist work, and 40% national and international artist work.
Typically, visiting artists come from the regional universities GCCC students most commonly transfer to. This helps create a strong relationship between the art program at GCCC and the programs at larger universities many students aspire to attend.
Along with the regularly changing exhibitions, the gallery also hosts the GCCC Student Awards Show, the GCCC Holiday Art Sale, and The Garden City High School Awards Exhibition.
You can experience a wide range of artistic media including drawings, paintings, and sculptures. While Mr. Mercer himself was a sculptor, the gallery embraces all forms of visual art to the great benefit of students and visitors. Exhibits are selected by the Mercer Gallery Selection Committee, which meets every March.
Even if you know nothing about art, don’t feel intimidated. The Mercer Gallery is a great place to get started. Along with observing compelling art, you can attend artist lectures from local and visiting artists, which can help you expand your artistic understanding and give you a richer gallery-going experience.
To give you an idea of the kind of exhibits that make their way to the Mercer Gallery, they recently hosted “The Collaborative Art Project,” which includes works from clients of the Development Services of Northwest Kansas. The project was developed as a way to improve the lives of special needs artists facing cognitive disabilities. This is a great example of how powerful art can be in changing the lives of communities and individuals.
The gallery also recently hosted an exhibit by the KU Painting Club, which sought to explore the lives of painting students by featuring works from different parts of their development. In addition GCCC and KU students joined a virtual zoom discussion to explore the meaning and techniques of their works – a first for the gallery.