By K.A. Letts
Following my Detroit Gallery Crawl piece in October Current highlighting contemporary art galleries in Detroit, it seems only fair to highlight the visual arts galleries in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Eschewing the 45 minute drive, this list is considerably shorter, reflecting the smaller population of Washtenaw County, but it highlights some gems in the local art scene that are worth a visit.
306 S. Main Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan
WSG Gallery is a gem of a commercial gallery in the city of Ann Arbor, and due to rising rents and slow sales, there’s no guarantee that the gallery will remain viable indefinitely. The artist-owned and operated venue, which is in its 20th year, hosts both group and solo exhibits, as well as a rotating selection of work by 17 member artists. In November, the gallery will be hosting Salon Show. The exhibition will feature the work of 15 juried artists in a large selection of many smallish pieces covering the gallery walls.
Gallery hours are visitor friendly:
Ann Arbor Art Center
117 West Liberty, Ann Arbor MI
The Ann Arbor Art Center, founded in 1909, offers a broad array of art-related services and education at all levels for the general public. And in case you have noticed the colorful new murals that have recently begun to appear on city streets, the Arts Center is working with artists and patrons to make those happen too.
Among its many other projects, the Art Center maintains a full gallery schedule of work by artists throughout the Great Lakes region. Until recently, Gallery 117 provided the venue for these exhibits in a large, two-room space on the second floor of the building. Things seem to be changing, however as The Art Center recently bought the building next door, at 115 Liberty, and is in the process of renovating it to create ground floor gallery space. Gallery Coordinator Mike Wolf says, “We are using this opportunity to try some new things and expand our education offerings. During this phase we will be able to see how our audience responds to a more street facing gallery which will inform how we program the future gallery in 115.” … so stay tuned.
Hours: 10am-7pm, Monday-Friday.
4090 Geddes Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Tucked into the central campus of Concordia University, the Kreft Gallery is a large exhibition space that annually hosts three professional exhibitions, an annual national juried show and several juried student exhibitions. The gallery recently installed Textures of Detroit, which featured the paintings, fiber arts, sculpture, prints and photography of 6 distinguished Detroit artists. In November, Kreft Gallery will present We’re Here for You, with paintings by Darren Haper, artworks characterized by light-hearted pop-culture forms; they are larded with humor and devoted to subverting clichés.
Hours: Noon-4pm, Tuesday-Friday.
Penny Stamps Gallery
201 S. Division Street, Ann Arbor MI 48104
The recently opened Penny Stamps Gallery is, of course, a project defined by its relationship with the Penny Stamps School of Art and Design, and is closely identified with the school.
However, unlike the previous iteration of the School’s gallery on State Street, Penny Stamps seems to be headed in a more inclusive and topical direction under its newly-appointed director, Srimoyee Mitra. She describes the mission: “I envision a space that is inclusive, lively and expansive [that] will cultivate and nurture a responsive, experimental and robust program where audiences, community members, and creative practitioners work collaboratively to make real social change.”
This month, the gallery offers Border Control, an exhibition of works that are touched or driven by new media, and which consider migration, displacement, and statelessness.
Hours: 11am-5pm, Tuesday-Wednesday & Saturday-Sunday.
11am-7pm, Thursday -Friday.
Other UM Art
There are numerous galleries salted throughout the University of Michigan’s campus that schedule first-rate exhibitions, but keep a low profile. They are conceived as amenities for the students and faculty, but many of them are open to the public during business hours (if you know where to look).
A few favorites for the adventurous: University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities Gallery (main campus), Duderstadt Gallery (North Campus) and the Rotunda and Connections Galleries (North Campus Research Center, Building 18).
Riverside Arts Center
76 N.Huron St., Ypsilanti 48197
The Riverside Arts Center provides a venue for visual arts exhibitions from an astonishing array of community stakeholders. The Center continuously grows its multi disciplinary programs, providing studios, dance classes, yoga, and theater events in addition to the large exhibitions that are installed every 6 weeks in its cavernous lower level gallery space. In the month of November, Riverside Arts Center will host Way Opens (Disability Arts and Culture), an exhibition that examines what “disabled” means through both-object based and performance-based art.
Hours: 3-8pm, Friday.
University of Michigan Museum of Art
525 S. State Street, Ann Arbor
The Museum, although founded and funded by the University of Michigan, also provides immense cultural value to Ann Arbor’s art lovers. Admission to the museum is free, and many events, lectures and symposia are open to the public. The permanent collection of the museum has been recently and handsomely re-installed, and that’s worth a visit in itself. But UMMA also offers a number of time-limited exhibitions throughout the season. A couple of highlights now on view include Abstraction, Color and Politics and Pan African Pulp, a Commission by Meleko Mokgosi
22 North Gallery
22 North Huron, Ypsilanti 48197
This attractive storefront gallery doubles as a performance space, and hours vary. 22 North is reliably open during the monthly Ypsilanti First Friday events from 7-10. Check the website for additional programming and hours. In November, Peter Sparling, American dancer, UM dance professor and Artistic Director of the Ann Arbor-based Peter Sparling Dance Company, will show his videos and paintings.
All these art spaces are worth a visit, and since they are close by, you can easily see some world-class art without leaving your hometown.