New Stamelos Gallery Center marks a turning point for arts at UM-Dearborn

August 19, 2019

$1M+ gift provides new, enhanced gathering place for the campus and community to celebrate the arts

Stamelos Gallery Center
Stamelos Gallery Center
Flower Series #31 - Croton, Electra Stamelos, watercolor, 1975

UM-Dearborn is excited to announce the grand opening of the new Stamelos Gallery Center, from 5:30-8:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept 12, first floor, Mardigian Library, UM-Dearborn, 4901 Evergreen Rd., Dearborn, MI. The new gallery was made possible by a $1M+ gift from the estate of William and Electra Stamelos. The event includes the opening of a special exhibit, "Electra and Bill: Honoring an Immeasurable Contribution." It is open to the public free of charge.

“This beautiful new art center will allow us to present a wider variety of exhibits for the campus and the community, better preserve the artwork, provide expanded academic and professional work experiences for our students and enrich our partnership opportunities,” said Laura Cotton, curator and manager of the center. “We are tremendously grateful for the generosity of Electra and Bill, whose major gift, along with the support of other donors, made this new gallery a reality.”

Electra and William Stamelos
Electra and William Stamelos
Electra and William Stamelos

The Stamelos Gallery Center is comprised of two galleries, divided by a moveable wall and equipped with a museum quality LED lighting system, as well as a spacious new collection storage room. Gallery walls are designed specifically to allow for the installation of all art media and styles including opportunities to display contemporary, immersive work and art that incorporates video and sound elements.

All of these newly created spaces feature a climate control system that allows gallery staff to better protect artwork in the collection and on loan. The upgrades also provide the university with the opportunity to borrow from the collections of renowned art institutions across the country opening up many more possibilities for more ambitious exhibitions and programming.

The new central location of the art center on the first floor of the Mardigian Library greatly increases visibility and public access. The Stamelos Gallery Center now serves as the university’s gathering place where the campus and community celebrate the arts. These newly designed spaces attract and inspire highly-regarded artists and guest speakers who greatly enhance and enrich university offerings.

This art center provides significantly expanded interactive, professional work experiences for students. It raises faculty awareness of the collection and gallery programming, and it encourages them to consider new ways of incorporating critical thinking strategies through the study of art into their curriculum.

The impact of Electra and Bill’s contributions to UM-Dearborn and to the greater region cannot be measured or fully expressed,” Cotton added. “The wide and varied educational opportunities resulting from their major gifts will enrich many generations to come.

The exhibit

Electra and Bill: Honoring an Immeasurable Contribution features watercolors and acrylic paintings by Electra from the UM-Dearborn collection, along with select works by other artists that were donated by the couple. It will run through November 19.

The show honors the significant contributions to the university by William and Electra Stamelos over the last forty years. Electra Stamelos (1927-2007) was a beloved UM-Dearborn art lecturer from 1980 to 1994 and an accomplished artist. She also held the position of Director of Art Acquisitions and Exhibitions for UM-Dearborn for many years and taught on the Ann Arbor campus. William Stamelos (1928-2017) was a devoted and generous university donor and gallery volunteer for many years, which included acting as honorary curator for a period of time. Electra and Bill contributed greatly to the university's art collection for decades including donating the majority of Electra's body of work and many other art pieces that they collected throughout their years together. The title of this exhibition refers to the fact that they were true, informal, warm and familiar friends to many people on campus and they were simply thought of as "Electra and Bill" by many at the university for decades.

Bill, a native Detroiter, met Electra while stationed in the army in Virginia. They were married in 1953 and moved to the Detroit area soon after. Electra earned her B.F.A. from Wayne State University and her M.F.A. from Eastern Michigan University. She also studied at the Corcoran Museum School and the National Art School in Washington D.C. and the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. 

Electra was a remarkably gifted painter and Bill was an avid photographer. Bill said his passion for art was “because of Electra.” Deriving inspiration mostly from the natural world, Electra planted and took care of a glorious garden which Bill photographed. His light-filled images of the garden were a significant inspiration for many of her pieces. She also painted portraits of loved ones, favorite places and even celebrated the unlikely beauty of complicated assemblages of ordinary objects like the buttons, thimbles, drink umbrellas and spools of thread jumbled together on her work table.

Continually challenging herself, Electra experimented with new techniques for communicating what she saw, felt and imagined. She moved effortlessly between abstract and representational imagery dissecting many of her compositions into smaller views with varying perspectives. Electra described her work as figurative abstraction with many levels of interpretation, and she often filled every inch of the canvas. She had a talent for light and color and often painted from two trays of forty-eight colors each, using paint made by three different manufacturers for each color.

Electra’s artwork has been exhibited throughout the United States for decades and has won numerous awards. It has been acquired by a large number of private and public art collections across the country. 

Grand Opening Event Information

  • For more information or to RSVP, call (313)-593-5130 or visit
  • Complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served and music provided by the Rondo String Quartet.
  • Event parking is adjacent to Fairlane, Home of Clara and Henry Ford (previously the Henry Ford Estate). A shuttle will transport guests to and from the Mardigian Library throughout the event.

Visit for more details.

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