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April 8, 2013

Third Art Center move could be the charm

GPAC moves to third Village space in less than a year

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

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Grosse Pointe Art Center volunteers have been busy getting the new art center ready for its grand opening April 19. As of last week, they were still unpacking boxes and working on the gift shop.

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Supporters of local artists have had to put their navigation and tracking skills to good use over the last decade; the Grosse Pointe Art Center has relocated three times and is about to make a fourth move, to its third Village space.

But the good news is that, this time, the GPAC is expected to stay put — at least for the next several years.

The GPAC will have its grand opening at 17118 Kercheval — next to the CVS store — on April 19, when the latest exhibit, “Food for Thought,” opens with a public reception from 6:30-9 p.m. that night.

The new space is considerably smaller — about 1,600 square feet, as opposed to the 4,400 square feet that the GPAC had in its most recent home — but GPAC Director Amy DeBrunner said they’ve signed a three-year lease on the property and will be paying market rates this time, meaning that they won’t get bumped out by a new tenant. Support from the Edward P. Frohlich Family Trust and Village property owner James Bellanca Jr. enabled the GPAC to move to the Village in the first place, and DeBrunner said both “have been so good to us,” letting them use various vacant Village storefronts at reduced rates over the last few years.

Being in the Village has enabled the GPAC to increase its visibility and membership. At press time, DeBrunner said the nonprofit had about 300 members, most of whom are artists, but supporters far exceed that figure, and art show openings tend to be packed affairs.

“I’m hoping with the three-year permanent (space) that we can build on our marketing (and) our social media,” she said.

The Grosse Pointe Art Center — which grew out of the Grosse Pointe Artists Association, founded in November 1937 — got its first home at Maryland and Jefferson in Grosse Pointe Park in 2001. The GPAC closed at that space in July 2007 because of the Park’s plans to tear down the old building, and the art center didn’t reopen until February 2008, when the GPAC found a new home in the Park at 15001 Kercheval. The center was there for less than a year before making the leap to the Village, where it opened in January 2009 at 16900 Kercheval, in what had been the former location of the Village Toy Store. When new tenants for that space arrived last year — the GPAC had been paying a reduced rate for it — the center moved once more, staying in the Village and reopening in August 2012 at 17051 Kercheval. But with an upscale new restaurant now about to take over that space, the GPAC was forced to pack up again.

Although the space at 17118 Kercheval is smaller and lacks storage space, Gallery Coordinator Amelia Kanan said it’s better, aesthetically. It used to be an art gallery; as longtime Village visitors might recall, it was once the home of Ambleside Galleries, which closed there in June 2003. Prior to that, it was home to a Harmony House record store, and before that, it was Village Records and Tapes, so the space has a long history of housing the arts in various forms.

“This is just so much more fitting for a gallery,” Kanan said. “It’s cleaner and more condensed.”

At press time, the GPAC Board hadn’t finalized a location for art classes — the new center doesn’t have a room for them, but a couple of alternate spaces were under consideration.

Kanan said the existing GPAC officially closes April 14, but visitors were already coming into the new space last week and browsing through the makeshift gift shop in front, as volunteers continued to organize and unpack.

“It was really a grassroots move,” Kanan said. “Our volunteers were amazing. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Longtime GPAC member Catherine Derbyshire, of Grosse Pointe Woods, the widow of artist Michael Derbyshire, praised the organization for attracting “some very fine artists” throughout its history.

“They’ve really done a wonderful job of expanding beyond the Grosse Pointe community,” she said, noting that artists and visitors now come from all over metro Detroit to show and see art.

The GPAC will be hosting its first curated show — helmed by acclaimed artist Taurus Burns — from May 17 to June 1. DeBrunner said Burns is inviting the artists and choosing the works that will be included, which is different from a juried show, in which the artists submit works from which the juror chooses which to include. At press time, Burns’ show was slated to be called “Stroke,” she said.

“I’m really excited for the balance of our shows (this year),” DeBrunner said.

The GPAC is now located at 17118 Kercheval in the Village. Starting this month, gallery hours are noon-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call (313) 881-3454, email gpaa@grossepointeart center.org or visit www.grossepointeartcenter.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.