Avenue for the Arts is home to a creative community actively transforming a blighted stretch along South Division Ave. into a destination with profitable businesses, attractions and imaginative events. Curators from three Avenue galleries shed light on what their galleries do for artists and the community.
Jenn Schaub, Avenue for the Arts [Gallery] Space
307 S. Division Ave, Grand Rapids
Jenn Schaub serves as event coordinator with Avenue, has a hand in group-curating exhibitions and is a Neighborhood Revitalization Specialist with Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids.
What makes Avenue for the Arts a destination point?
I love the variety of spaces. There are live/work apartments acting as incubators for artists, exhibition spaces for experimental work, shops incorporating artwork, nonprofits, restaurants, social services and businesses. We regularly host pop-up shops which might only exist a weekend or month. During First Fridays all that activity is tied together with openings, extended business hours. There are also special events like the outdoor Market in the parking lot at 106 South Division, it features vendors and live music.
How is the [Gallery] unique from other spaces along the Avenue?
As Avenue headquarters, as well as a gallery, it exists to serve multiple functions. During office hours we coordinate events and host meetings.At other times the space is used exclusively as a gallery showcasing work of local artists.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to open their own shop along the Avenue?
Talk to other shop owners, get to know the area, create a business plan that identifies your audience and think about what will make your space unique. Check out Avenue for the Arts classes and great small business resources in GR like GROW (growbusiness.org) and SBDC (sbdcmichigan.org).
Steven Vinson, Spiral Gallery
44 S. Division Ave, Grand Rapids
facebook.com/SpiralGalleryGR, (616) 881-2511
Steven Vinson is a practicing artist and instructor at KCAD and GVSU. He founded Spiral Gallery in 2013 and curates exhibitions focused on work by local students and graduates.
What can happen in a gallery space along the Avenue for the Arts that might not happen in another area of Grand Rapids?
With live/work spaces the residents can choose to have any and all types of work in their space. This means that as the operator of my space I could show work that is more risqué if I so choose.
How do you approach curating a show at Spiral Gallery?
Many curators will have a particular aesthetic or type of work they like to show. I approach this challenge a bit differently in that I let the artists decide what they show while I act more as the voice of reason, there to help them make their idea look as good as possible within my space.
What can we expect from Spiral Gallery in the coming year and beyond?
Within the next year at Spiral there will be artwork from a collective of artists based in Indianapolis — that’s in August. Then I will have two artists for ArtPrize. After ArtPrize I will be looking for artists to exhibit at Spiral. Anyone interested, contact me.
Amanda Carmer, Craft House Gallery
40 S. Division Ave, Grand Rapids
crafthousegr.com, (616) 259-0278
Founded by photographer Amanda Carmer in 2012, Craft House offers a range of options for artists including studio/exhibition spaces, a commercial gallery and opportunities akin to artist residencies for extended projects.
What does Craft House do for artists?
When a young artist curates and/or installs their own show there is a huge learning curve. We’re here to walk artists through the process, to explain standard practices of framing and hanging work, the aesthetics of curating in a “white cube,” among other things. That’s the real value of Craft House: It’s a space for learning.
What do you want viewers to walk away with from your gallery?
I hope viewers recognize the care and craft involved in exhibiting original artwork. I hope they get close to a handcrafted wood frame and are blown away with the high quality of the seams. I also want them to be able to see work that makes them rethink their preconceptions of what art can be.
What can we expect from Craft House in the coming year and beyond?
We’ve got a kick-ass ArtPrize exhibition lined up — the large-scale paintings of Britt Spencer out of Savannah, GA. After that, we’ll be partnering with Live/Work 42, the venue next door to us to do some larger exhibitions as well as some thematic shows around the holidays — and not what you’d think, by the way.