When artist Tanya Tice couldn’t find a piece of art to hang above her couch in her price range, she went out to the store, bought some canvas and paint and “went to town.”
Soon, friends started requesting paintings and encouraged her to submit art to Red Lotus Center for the Arts in downtown Muskegon.
Located in the historic Century Club building, Red Lotus is part art gallery, part community arts center, providing artists with diverse backgrounds a place to show and sell their work. The gallery includes changing exhibits every four to six weeks, unique gifts made by local artists, concerts, performance events, art receptions, classes and venue rentals.
“I think Red Lotus is a very important thing in Muskegon,” said Tice, who now serves on the board and regularly sells her artwork there. “Not only does it give local artists an outlet, but it also lets the public know art isn’t just for the very rich. Art is for everyone.”
It’s a place where the work of housewives and self-taught painters like Tice hang beside Kendall College graduate and Pakistan native Aziza Abbasi and recognizable names such as Jon Workman, Fred Reinecke and Stacy Niedzwiecki.
“That is the beauty of Red Lotus, we’re not snotty,” said Heidi Stukkie, co-owner of Red Lotus. “We accept art from beginning artists, from students, all the way up to people who have a master’s in fine art and are very well-known.”
Driven by memberships, Red Lotus welcomes artists, musicians, poets, writers, students and art lovers to join a community of artists on the lakeshore. The gallery features acrylic and oil paintings, photography, drawing, sculpture, mixed media, pottery, jewelry and more.
Each “themed” exhibition goes through a jury process by the center’s curating committee, and exhibits feature the work of members, guest artists and nonmembers. The other half of the gallery includes more classic artwork.
Founded in 2012, Red Lotus relocated to space in the lower level of the Century Club about five years ago. Stukkie stepped into a co-owner role in December 2017 with founding owner Michael Schaafsma, convincing him to keep the gallery’s doors open.
Originally, Stukkie had joined Red Lotus as a member artist two years ago to have a venue to show her photography. While she “ended up loving it here,” she was disappointed in the arts and nightlife scene.
“I found this community of artists and I really wanted to support that,” she said.
Besides changing the name, logo and other branding efforts, they changed how the membership program works and increased member artists from 10 to 50, which also increased sales.
Red Lotus always welcomes new members. Memberships range from $5 to $25 per month with varying volunteer commitments, from helping to hang shows to staffing the gallery.
The art center isn’t afraid to try new things, such as concerts, poetry readings, open mics, art critique nights and various classes. It also held its first Holiday Market last November.
The current exhibit’s theme is Steampunk, followed by Celebrate Women in March, and the return of the popular Fluorescent show in April.
Tice joined the gallery in January 2018 and sold several pieces during Fluorescent.
“That was quite exciting, being new,” she said. “We didn’t think it was going to be a big event, and it was one of our biggest shows we’ve had.”
That initial success pushed Tice to keep making art. She paints with acrylic and resin, specializing in abstract and liquid flow art. A regular volunteer in the gallery, Tice said the doors are open to anyone who wants to learn more about art.
“That was the first time I had ever been in a gallery in my life,” she said. “It’s very welcoming and inviting. You don’t feel afraid to touch or look.”
The Fluorescent show’s popularity even surprised Stukkie. Half of the gallery is dark, the art lit with black lights.
“It was so much fun, it was like coming into a fun house,” Stukkie said. “We had a ton of traffic for that show.”
The Century Club’s location in the heart of downtown includes several other shops on the main level. Stukkie said the Western Avenue retail chalets gave foot traffic a boost last summer, and Red Lotus is in a good spot to give artists exposure, visitors a place to shop, and residents a social hub.
“I definitely think Muskegon needs arts and events,” Stukkie said. “We need more of this downtown. I want to make sure we have a place to offer that.”
Red Lotus Center for the Arts
356 W. Western Ave., Muskegon
redlotusmuskegon.com, (231) 981-8525
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday;
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
Steampunk & Other Art to Beat the Winter Blues, through Feb. 16
Celebrate Women, opens Feb. 19
Fluorescent, opens April 2
Open Mic Night, 7-9 p.m., Feb. 22 (typically every fourth Friday)