Makeshift Gallery Maintains a Presence in Ann Arbor

people sitting in a classroom.
Photo at the Makeshift Gallery.

It was only supposed to last a month, but now the Makeshift Gallery is well on its way to lasting for a whole year.

“It’s my first time coming to the gallery, and I think it’s great to have the mixture of both the visual and performing arts,” gallery-goer Estefania Mirtinez said.

Over two dozen local artists have art for sale in the gallery at 407 East Liberty Street, in between Red Yoga and Tios. They hold art events nearly every Sunday, featuring local musicians and poets performing for an hour or two before mingling with the guests as they peruse the paintings, photographs, jewelry and prints; all of which were for sale.

Dick Siegel performing with a guitar he has entertained Ann Arbor with for decades.
Dick Siegel performing with a guitar he has entertained Ann Arbor with for decades.

“It’s a fine venue to share creativity,” Local singer and songwriter Dick Siegel said after performing at one of their weekly concerts.

The space is based on a Parisian art gallery, where artists from different mediums, styles and persuasions are all put together. There are also handmade guitars and banjos for sale.

“I’m heavily influenced by music and musicians…as an inspiration for a lot of my paintings. My paintings are representational acrylic paintings of people and animals, very stylized. I also like bright colors and sometimes alternative materials like velvet or glitter,” Katie Hammond, an artist who paints in a studio on the west side, said.

Her latest paintings at the gallery were inspired by the lyrics of Bob Dylan.

“I am just really happy to be able to participate in the local art scene in any capacity possible,” Hammond said. “I especially love showing downtown, to get other people involved, and get more exposure for my work.”

Katie Hammond and her work.
Katie Hammond and her work.

Organizers told Current that while they initially intended to sell art through last December, they managed to sell enough to keep paying rent and other expenses and simply decided to see how long they could keep the establishment going. Prices range anywhere from $1 to the upper hundreds.

“This is my second time here,” Clara Adams, a friend of the organizers who visited recently, said. “So far in reviewing the artists’ work, I am noticing more things.”

Co-organizer and jewelry maker Chris Hippler calls the establishment a “visual art gallery.”

Hippler said it is “visual arts combined with performing arts. They marry very well together. We can move the art around to accommodate performances. And as time goes on, our ambition is to accommodate bigger performances; drama and theatrical shows.”

Local art for sale.
Local art for sale.

The gallery is also open to accepting new artists within it and the process to get in is very informal. The organizers said most of the artists are of an older generation at the moment and they are open and eager to get younger artists in too. A new guest artist is brought in every month to help expose new artists to the Ann Arbor community.

“One day I just saw the little pop-up sign and I walked in and thought this place was amazing,” Sam Ruff, a Milan native who is currently a student at the University of Toledo, and who read some of her original poetry at a gathering recently, said.

She has written around 150 poems since starting last year and is in the process of getting published.

“We were talking about all the music boxes here and the great work and he [Jack, a proprietor] mentioned that they were having events [with] new students and young people and he wanted young people who do things [to attend]. And I was like: ‘I’m a young person, who does things!’ and from there, we have been communicating about our visions, and it has turned into a wonderful event, and I am very happy to perform here,” Ruff said.

Sam Ruff, reading her poems before an audience.
Sam Ruff, reading her poems before an audience.

The month-to-month nature of the business is why they do not have a dedicated website nor phone number. But if enough people show up and support local artists by buying the art, this gallery could keep going theoretically, forever.

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