Local art exhibition to benefit FernCare Free Clinic

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published March 15, 2016

 Brad Gravelle stands with his work “Morning Light” as part of the opening reception for his show with fellow artist Tom Livo.

Brad Gravelle stands with his work “Morning Light” as part of the opening reception for his show with fellow artist Tom Livo.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


FERNDALE — At the beginning of 2015, the FernCare Free Clinic was able to open its doors one day a week to assist patrons with no medical insurance. The clinic had previously only been open three days a month.

Because the clinic offers free medical services to people ages 19-64 who have no medical insurance, many of its services are able to exist because of grants and donations. And thanks to a partnership with a local business and two artists, the clinic will be looking to bolster its general fund.

Tom Livo and Brad Gravelle, who run a studio together in Westland, opened a joint exhibition March 11 at Level One Bank in Ferndale. The show, which runs through April 18, will donate a percentage of proceeds from each sale, money made from a silent auction held March 11, and donations from the opening reception to the FernCare Free Clinic.

“The major income for the clinic is from individual donations,” FernCare Board President Ann Heler said. “We do have some small grants and are fortunate to have grants for very specific things, but to keep the place going and to pay the insurance, that is all by donations, so things like this are critically important, and we are very grateful people want to do it and see value in what we do.”

Livo, who lives in Dearborn Heights, said he and Gravelle formed Studio 209 three years ago as a way to have a space to create new work as well as showcase and sell pieces they have completed.

Having spent some time at the College for Creative Studies as well as working in Chicago and Los Angeles, Livo said he has a long history of creating art and showcasing it, but hasn’t shown in his home state since returning to Michigan a little over a decade ago.

At the studio, Livo works mostly in oil paintings while Gravelle works in both painting and graphics. By having two artists working in the same location, Livo said it helps both of them.

“The confines are really tight and we paint 3 feet from each other, so it is a really good experience,” Livo said. “It takes the tunnel vision out of painting, as we talk and there is a very free feeling working in that manner and not being isolated. There is a lot of parlaying back and forth, and we talk about ideas and visions.”

Livo was introduced to Heler about five years ago while waiting tables, and the two often talked about his art and what he was working on at the time. With the show at Level One Bank being his first show since 1987 in Michigan, Livo said he and Gravelle wanted to give back to a cause like the FernCare Free Clinic that helps those in need.

“We believe in the whole idea of free health care, and to donate a part of the proceeds makes me feel good that I am supporting something for people who can’t afford health care,” he said. “As an artist, I am on the lower income bracket and just recently got insurance, but for the longest time I didn’t have anything and didn’t go to the doctor. This clinic is something society really needs.”

In 2014, FernCare received a $21,000 grant from the Jewish Fund that helped the clinic open the extra day each month, as well as offer some new services. The grant is spread out over three years.

Last year, the Metro Health Foundation awarded FernCare a nearly $9,000 grant that aided the clinic in helping patrons sign up for health care.

Heler said the clinic has seven to 10 new patients every clinic session and is continuing with its counseling and insurance enrollment programs. And getting help from artists like Livo and Gravelle is what helps them continue to grow.

“Getting all this together, things have just worked out well and we are happy they are willing to work with us,” she said. “Just getting people walking around and seeing their hard work, and then that helps support the free clinic to just continue doing the work we are doing.”

The exhibit is available to see during open hours at Level One Bank, located at 22635 Woodward Ave. For more information on the FernCare Free Clinic, visit www.ferncare.org.