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Enticing Tiny Things

Posted on May 21, 2024 at 6:15 AM by Alisha Abner


Image of a student admiring a tiny brown vase with a chipmunk on it. Text says "Small Pleasures Tiny Art from the Permanent Collection" Iowa State University Brunnier Art Museum University Museums AffiliateThere’s something about tiny things that elicits squeals of joy from many of us. From tiny animals to doll-sized versions of everyday items, something inside humans is triggered to care for small and delicate things. The exhibition Small Pleasures: Tiny Art from the Permanent Collection currently at the Brunnier Art Museum is filled with small things, and the promotional photo shoot for it was definitely filled with joy!

While preparing to promote this exhibition last fall, I had a vision of a hand holding or touching some of the tiny objects to show scale. Since the exhibition was to be about tiny art, I wanted the smallness of the objects to be obvious. My intern at the time, Brielle Tuttle (’24), was a fantastic photographer with access to some high-quality cameras and lenses through the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, so I wanted to take an opportunity to go all out.

We reserved space in the large studio on the lower level of the Student Innovation Center on a Sunday evening in November 2023 where we had a seamless white background, a whole panel of lights, and pedestals waiting for us. Brielle brought her roommate Rachael Kaufmann (’24) as the model, and my daughter Charlotte, age 12, joined us as an assistant so she could also see and appreciate the tiny objects.


Photo of a student with pink hair taking a photo of another student leaning over a pedestal in a studio with a white backdrop


I brought some objects selected by curators Adrienne Gennett and Allison Sheridan to the studio, carefully packed, of course! Brielle and I played around with light and placement. With some direction, Rachael held the objects in her hands or placed them on a pedestal while gently touching them and looking bemused. It didn’t take much to coax the look from our model, as we naturally enjoy tiny things!


Photo of student with pink hair taking a photo of another student smiling and leaning on a pedestal with a tiny vase with a chipmunk on it all in a studio with white backdrop


The photo shoot went better than I imagined. I’m not sure what was more fun, the objects, the studio, or the company! It has been immensely satisfying to experience my vision not just coming to fruition, but to see the final products produced at a level of excellence beyond my original vision. The images have been used on postcards and posters, on the exhibition panel, in newsletters, on the exhibition page on the University Museums website, and on social media, all to entice people into viewing these objects in person.


Photo of Small Pleasures exhibition showing tiny objects grouped together on pedestals with plexiglass cases. The title is on a wall and a panel with a photo of a student with one of the objects is on another wall.


Unfortunately, Small Pleasures: Tiny Art from the Permanent Collection will need to close early because of construction on the Scheman Building. This exhibition will be open through Sunday, June 2, 2024. I encourage all who are able to come delight in the tiny art before it gets packed away.


Brunnier Art Museum
Scheman Building, 2nd floor
1805 Center Drive
Ames, Iowa 50011


Open Hours by Day

Tuesday, May 21

10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 22

10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 23

10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Friday, May 24

10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Saturday, May 25


Sunday, May 26


Monday, May 27


Tuesday, May 28

10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Wednesday, May 29

10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 30

10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Friday, May 31

10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Saturday, June 1

1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.

Sunday, June 2

1:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.

Signature object in images:
Chipmunk and Dinner, 2000s
Dean Schwarz (American, b.1938)
Lane Schwarz (American)
Gift of Geraldine and Dean Schwarz. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2018.174

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