THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Celebrating the Art of Transformation
01st September, 2016 0
“I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart.” – Vincent van Gogh
“Creativity takes courage.” – Henri Matisse
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” – Andy Warhol
With The GIngerblue Gallery set to open its doors on September 9th, it seems fitting to preface this tale of transformation with three telling quotes from visionary artists that, when coupled with determination, focus, and personal commitment, perfectly frames the context behind the story of this newest cultural asset to grace the Great Lakes Bay Region.
The Gingerblue Gallery is a kaleidoscopic showcase that functions much like a colorful and carefully tuned prism with a focus upon featuring high-caliber visual expression from prominent artists spanning the globe. Part of the historic Graebner Building and located at 124 N. Michigan Ave. in Saginaw’s historic Old Town district, the gallery & building are both owned by the husband & wife team of Donna Branch and Larsen Cottrell, whom over the past ten years have restored the structure to its original beauty with 21st Century updates.
The genesis for this ambitious project dates back to 2007 when Donna & Larsen first made the decision to purchase the large historic office & retail complex that sat on the corner of North Michigan Ave. & Hancock. Originally a Saginaw native, Donna and her husband Larsen, who hails from England, were both living in Los Angeles and working in the television industry. Larsen had his own company where he designed and installed television studios like CNN, Disney & Universal; and Donna had a career at ABC Television. After her time there she left to direct and produce arts & cultural programming for public broadcasting.
“Larsen and I were living in Los Angeles, working like mad people, and giving serious thought to investing here in Saginaw,” explains Donna. “We came back to visit and it was the first time Larsen had ever been here and we both found it quite depressing. Walking around the city we saw lots of problems, but loved the Old Town district, even though a lot of the buildings were in pretty bad shape. Ultimately, we finally decided to invest in Old Town because we loved the experience here in Saginaw.”
“We could have stayed in Hollywood, but neither Larsen or I could stand it anymore,” confesses Donna. “We had this beautiful house, but between battling the traffic and dealing with increasing work related issues, we had little time to do anything else. It’s fine to go out to dinner and see your friends occasionally, but both of us felt our lives had no real purpose.”
“I could see the future there in Los Angeles getting dirtier, busier, more packed with people, and more expensive. We both loved Michigan and decided that we could actually breathe here, travel more, and live less expensively; so the decision to relocate back to my hometown was a lifestyle choice. There was no quality of life in L.A. anymore for either of us; and here we could actually explore the art of living. We still go back to L.A. but now it’s for pleasure, not work.”
Apart from her career involvement with arts & cultural programming, Donna explains how she has always been deeply involved with cultivating her passion for the visual and musical arts. “My son is a visual artist and while I was producing a few arts & cultural documentaries, I managed to develop a network of talented artists.”
“Plus, I’ve always been into the theatre; and there was always a lot of good theatre in L.A.,” she continues. “So when the real estate market hit its peak in 2006, instead of buying a condo in L.A. we decided to buy a commercial building in downtown Saginaw. We lowered the rents, totally renovated the building, got some really good tenants in the building, and decided to re-shape and re-define our vision for the future.”
Bricks & Mortar: Turning a Dream into a Reality
Although they were still living in Los Angeles, Donna & Larsen would return back to Saginaw every couple of months once they made the purchase of the historic Graebner Building. Despite the many encouraging signs they witnessed of a renaissance happening in Saginaw’s historic Downtown & Old Town Districts, one gaping void that imminently became apparent to Donna was the lack of a true art gallery.
“When you want to live in a city the first thing people should want to maintain is the history and character of the city; and arts & culture play a big part in making it desirable,” she reflects. “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to live in a city without an art gallery, or good movies or good theatre to see.”
“Quality Photo was occupying the space where we decided to locate the Gingerblue; and as we were walking through it we looked under the drop ceilings and paneling and decided it would make a great art gallery,” relates Donna. “We saw an opportunity once Quality Photo moved out and both decided that instead of renting out the space again, we would take it over and open the type of art gallery we wanted.”
Today they have 29 office units rented, the Oracle Brewery soon to open, Old Town Pizza open and happening, the Gingerblue Gallery set to open its doors on September 9th, and both Donna & Larsen could not be happier or more excited at the prospects. “The people in Old Town are some of the best we’ve met and work so hard to get things going. I want to be part of the growth of Saginaw and to my mind, the most important thing to preserve in Saginaw is its history. We need to preserve our historic buildings, which is why we took such painstaking care renovating this one.”
Indeed, with the gallery poised to open, Larsen and Donna both confess the most challenging component of the entire project has centered around the exhaustive renovation work. “Everything was gutted,” notes Larsen,” because we had to expose the original tin ceilings. The floor had several different finishes that needed to be stripped; and everything got ripped off the walls and redone. But it was all worthwhile bringing the history back to his space. We installed professional lighting and thermostats, just like the big galleries with all state-of-the-art touches. We need things for people to do down here besides drink and have a meal.”
A Transformative Showcase for Featured Artists
Featuring a balanced array of original work from local, national & international artists, The Gingerblue Gallery features a broad spectrum of mediums for all to enjoy, with a pivotal mission geared to creating an art space not only for painters, but for all visuals arts, including ceramics, sculpture, photography and jewelry.
Prominent artists being featured during the gallery opening include local artist Jim Perkins, displaying both his amazing original realist oil paintings, along with his gifted reproductions of the Dutch Masters. “Jim possesses a mind-blowing talent and his work will cover a couple of our walls,” explains Donna. “He is in the process of finishing an incredible reproduction of a Frederick Leighton work that we are in the process of framing; and Jim also does beautiful contemporary portraits of people unlike any you will ever see.”
“We will also be featuring the work of Paolo Pedini, who briefly ran a gallery in the Hancock space and now resides in Detroit,” continues Donna. “We’ll be featuring this edgy new series that he is engaged with, and will also be featuring the incredible work of Saginaw native Edwina Jacques, who currently resides in England. Edwina was commissioned to do a series of original Women in the Valley portraits of notable women that originated from our Great Lakes Bay region a few years ago, and she’s very excited about offering her work through our gallery. We’ll be featuring her Madonna piece on one of our walls.”
Additional artists that will be featured at The Gingerblue include award winning watercolorist Robert Fionda, who won this year’s En Plein Air open competition at the Saginaw Art Museum, along with Eric Roux-Fontaine. “Larsen and I just returned from Paris where he was conducting a solo exhibition and he is one of my favorite impressionistic French contemporary artists. His work can be found in New York, Paris, London, Miami, Boston, and now here in Saginaw,” enthuses Donna. “We’ll be displaying four of his paintings and he is sending us a couple more.”
Also featured will be the work of abstract visionary Mark Piotrowski, who specializes in work with enamels. “We were fortunate to go through his home and he had these headboards that were just gorgeous; and he also does these very beautiful totems and medallions in enamel,” explains Donna. “We are also fortunate to have Matt Lewis, who is another very popular abstract artist who shows all over the state.”
Rounding out the Grand Opening display will be the gifted visual work of musical Rock ‘n Roll icons Grace Slick (of The Jefferson Airplane) and Ronnie Wood (from The Faces and Rolling Stones). “Grace sent us two pieces of her work - one an original mixed media and signed them both; while we’ll be featuring some signed prints and reproductions of Ronnie’s work,” notes Donna.
Additional work to inspire the Rock ‘n Roll enthusiast include iconic rock photos, signed by the photographers, along with signed and numbered archival prints of Maria Muldaur, Bob Dylan and George Harrison. “We are functioning as a sales outlet for Mr. Musichead that is located on Sunset Boulevard in L.A.,” explains Donna. “I’m working with Sam Milgrom, who used to own Sam’s Jams in Detroit and it’s one of my favorite galleries to go to in Hollywood. I actually tried to model the design of our gallery from it as a blueprint and have access to a lot of collections, so if anybody likes something or wants different prints of artists ranging from The Beatles to David Bowie, we can get them.”
In terms of pricing, Donna says that the work featured at The Gingerblue Gallery will range everywhere from $50.00 to $25,000 and also confesses that she is unconcerned with whether or not the more expensive pieces sell or not. “We opened this gallery because we want to bring an energy to Old Town,” states Donna. “If a piece we are featuring doesn’t sell because of the high price tag, at least people can come and appreciate the work. Of course, both the artist and myself would love to sell it, but it’s more of an investment in the community.”
“We’re not getting a big commission on the works we broker, either,” notes Donna. “Most galleries get 50% and we are lowering it considerably; plus, I am always looking for new artists and we feature a submission form on our website, so I encourage all artists to send me photos of their work for consideration. We want to sell art and also want the artist to make some money in the process.”
All the works featured will also be available online at gingerbluegallery,com and Donna & Larsen say they are looking at possibly purchasing an Art Barn up on Old Mission Peninsula to expand their artistic mission. “We would like to take a lot of the local artists that we feature up to the Traverse area and possibly close the gallery down for one month every summer in order to do a big art show up at Old Mission and give added exposure to some of these incredible artists that we have in the Detroit & Saginaw area. They really don’t have anything like this up there right now. A lot of people are looking for abstract modern art and I think we have the artists that can take care of that need.”
After their Grand Opening on September 9th from 6-8 PM The Gingerblue Gallery will be open from Noon – 5 pm Tuesday through Friday and also open for special events in the evening, whenever a special Old Town event is going on, or once the Oracle Brewery opens its doors, as the two entities plan on staging special events together.
“It’s Important to have both art and culture in any city,” concludes Donna. “It keeps it alive and fun to live in.”
The Gingerblue Gallery is located at 125 N. Michigan Avenue in Saginaw. You can reach them by phoning 989.971.9770 and visit them online at gingerbluegallery.com
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)