The Guild of Artists & Artisans' new Gutman Gallery opens with an exhibit filled with love (and hearts)
On a standardly gray February evening I made my way through the dark and cold toward Kerrytown. The block of Fourth Street between Ann and Huron is not a particularly active space after five, but tonight was different. Brightly lit, and with condensation beginning to form, glances of color slipped out the storefront windows of the newly opened Gutman Gallery.
Operated by The Guild of Artists & Artisans, the Gallery is named for the Guild’s founder, Vic Gutman. A University of Michigan student in the 1970s, the campus asked Gutman to do something about the students who had started hawking their own art on the Diag parallel to the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. His response was to create the Free Art Fair, which morphed into what is now known as the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, and led Gutman to found the Michigan Guild of Artists and Artisans in 1973.
The Guild’s mission is to provide marketing opportunities for artists. In addition to producing six art fairs each year -- the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, Royal Oak Market: Spring Art Fair, Art Birmingham, The Levis Commons Fine Art Fair, Common Ground’s Birmingham Street Art Fair, and Royal Oak Market: Art Fair Edition -- the Gallery is a new venture to provide artists with visibility as well as cultural and educational events for the community. Curated shows at the Gallery will not be limited to Guild members, but the shop is stocked only with members’ works.
Bundling into an art opening in cold weather climates in February brings with it a certain level of casualness and familiarity; it doesn’t matter how hip or prestigious you are, you still have to spend a few red-cheeked moments unwinding scarves and defogging glasses.
The inaugural exhibition, Amor: Looking through the Eyes of Love, warmed the gallery with bright works featuring hearts and generally pretty heteronormative depictions of love. What the show lacked in diversity of definition and perspective, it offered in a variety of visual art forms: mixed media, acrylics, oils, jewelry, textiles, and ceramics were all featured and tied into the theme.
The piece that first caught my eye was Sophie Grillet’s, Man, Woman, Moon. Rich in color and subtle shapes and movement, it allowed me to form my own story in my head. Ruth Crowe’s, She Counted Her Regrets Two at a Time used vintage photography to bring attention to the imperfect experience of love. Yet it was a small piece, found while flipping through a box of prints in the shop, that really caught my attention. Woodland Path by Kat Zinn was the piece that captivated me and made the jovial crowd around me fade out. With its price tag more within my reach (think: double vs. triple/quadruple digits), it also made me hopeful that, unlike at an art fair, I could return to the gallery in the future and perhaps make a purchase.
Amor: Looking through the Eyes of Love fittingly opened on Valentine’s Day, and will remain through February 27, 2020. Many of us in attendance agreed that another gallery is a welcomed addition to a downtown that’s battling to maintain a balance of engaging urban design when seemingly every storefront fills with another restaurant or coffee shop. If a street is going to be -- and remain -- vibrant it needs someplace for patrons to go while waiting for a table, or after eating when you don’t want the evening to end just yet. I’m not sure how the Gutman Gallery will fit into the dinner scene -- its hours will be Tuesdays-Fridays 11 am-5 pm, Saturdays 9 am-4 pm -- but daytime shoppers strolling from the Main Street area to Kerrytown now have a new creative space to visit.
The renovations to create the Gallery were made possible through a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. Artists interested in exhibiting at the Gallery will go through a juried process. More information about this, and about becoming a member of the Guild, can be found on theguild.org.
Shoshana Hurand is the volunteer coordinator for the Ann Arbor District Library.
"Amor: Looking Through the Eyes of Love" runs through February 27 at Gutman Gallery, 118 N. 4th Ave., Ann Arbor. The next exhibit is "Fleur," which runs March 5-26.