Celebrating the Stamelos legacy: University announces plans to establish William and Electra Stamelos Gallery

December 14, 2015

Bill Stamelos plans to honor his wife's legacy by helping to fund the new William and Electra Stamelos Gallery.

Bill and Electra Stamelos on display in Berkowitz Gallery

William “Bill” Stamelos has a simple answer when asked what interested him in the art world: It was his wife, Electra.

“I was an engineer, and what do engineers know about art? They know how to frame it,” said Stamelos, laughing. “[At first] she would drag me around to museums and galleries. [Then] it became a family affair to go to the art shows; we enjoyed going together.”

Bill and Electra Stamelos were married for more than 50 years before Electra passed away in 2007. Together, they traveled the world, creating and collecting art. Now Stamelos plans to honor his wife’s legacy by enhancing University of Michigan-Dearborn’s art exhibition experience.

UM-Dearborn recently announced plans to establish the William and Electra Stamelos Gallery on the first floor of Mardigian Library. Stamelos has donated more than $450,000 and committed the bulk of his estate to fund the initial design and planning of the gallery, as well as partial construction costs. Additional donors will be encouraged to provide further funds necessary for construction, which will commence when all funding has been secured.

Curator Laura Cotton said she’s thrilled to start planning for a space that will better serve the university’s academic mission.

“The art collection is one of the university’s most valuable hidden teaching tools,” she said. “The Stamelos Gallery will provide greater access to the university’s art collection and more opportunities for educational programming—lectures, workshops and cultural events—both for our students and the community. We hope this new space will serve as a gathering place, where the campus and community can come together to celebrate the arts.”

That’s an idea Stamelos knows his wife would have appreciated. Electra Stamelos was an art lecturer at UM-Dearborn from 1980-1994 and a longtime contributor to the regional art scene.

“She loved the students,” he said, recalling how his wife often would continue discussions with students outside after the night staff closed up the buildings. “She absolutely loved sharing her knowledge of art with other people.”

Her most captive audience, though, was her husband. The retired engineer became a skilled photographer and stained glass designer and a long-time gallery volunteer, even serving as honorary curator for a period of time. His support of the Stamelos Gallery caps nearly 35 years of contributing to the arts at UM-Dearborn, including donating the majority of Electra’s body of work and an extensive collection of artwork by other artists.

The long-range plan is for the Stamelos Gallery to be joined on the first floor by the Berkowitz Gallery, creating an expanded Galleries Center, which will be funded by additional donor support.

The renovated space will include a climate-controlled system and better security—both essential for borrowing art from other collections—as well as a new LED lighting system and larger storage area.

Cotton said the William and Electra Stamelos Gallery will be a fitting tribute to the couple who invested so heavily in arts throughout the region.

“They already have created such a legacy—Electra as an artist, educator and donor; Bill as a donor and long-time volunteer,” she said. “Generations of students will benefit from both the artwork and the gallery space.”

An exhibit of Electra Stamelos’ work and the Stamelos collection is on display now in the Berkowitz Gallery. “A True Impact: Celebrating the Stamelos Legacy” runs through January 15. To learn more about the William and Electra Stamelos Gallery or the Galleries Center or to support the building project, contact Kelly Cronin, director of development for university initiatives, at 313-593-3500 or croninke@umich.edu.