If there’s a town Up North that embraces public art, it’s Ludington. There are 13 large-scale murals on buildings throughout the town and 11 bronze sculptures in a new sculpture trail. The murals and the bronzes depict Ludington’s heritage and small-town life. But there’s a growing group of people who don’t want all of Ludington’s art to be quite so historical.
Andrew Thomas has a shaven head, a goatee and a big pair of round earrings that stretch out his earlobes. He and his wife Michelle own the A.M. Galleries in downtown Ludington. They opened their doors last summer. In the gallery is the kind of art you might see in big city galleries: abstract, impressionistic and even a little rebellious.
Last week, Andrew was taking down one exhibit and putting up another. The outgoing exhibit was by ceramic artist Anna Kazmarski. She makes life-size, naked, primitive human figures.
Anna says “It’s a pair. There’s a male figure and there’s a female figure and it’s called “La Vagina del Diablo.” Its Spanish translation (is) “The Devil’s Vagina.”
You Are Entering the Comfort Zone
This isn’t exactly the kind of art Ludington is used to. Most of Ludington’s murals are montages of people and events painted in a simple, representational style – like the one of the late Reverend Christiansen who ministered to Ludington residents his entire life. The bronze sculptures include a man and boy with fishing poles, a farmer with a sack of grain and a captain standing at a ship’s wheel.
Last month, two new sculptures were added to the Mason County Sculpture Trail: a hand-carved wooden rearing horse at the mason County Fairgrounds and “Flights of Learning,” a life-size bronze of a child opening a book from which birds fly out. That was placed in front of the Mason County District Library in Ludington.
Erica Karmeisool Reed is the new Director of the Ludington Area Center for the Arts. She thinks Ludington is past due for some new and thought-provoking art.
Erica says, “People, they kind of know what’s comfortable and I think that there has been that reluctancy to bring in something that is maybe outside of that comfort zone. And I think it’s time to really lean on galleries like A.M. Galleries and Red Door to bring in some work that’s outside of that comfort zone.”
Talk to Me
The Red Door Gallery is just down the street from the A.M. Galleries. Nathan Grubich owns it with his wife Amanda. Nathan says that when the Red Door first opened a little more than 10 years ago, few people even wanted to talk about art – unless it was a work with a lighthouse or a sailboat in it.
Nathan says, “At least the dialogue is starting whereas 10 years ago, when we moved here, there was no dialogue about art in the area. I mean it was, in our eyes, very void of conversations about art and the value that it does have in a community.”
Lars Kvalvaag owns the Redolencia Coffeehouse, just a couple of doors down from the A.M. Galleries. He says there’s a lot of younger people buying and running businesses downtown.
And he thinks that’s changing the vibe of the town.
Lars says, "It's all young 30s, we just bought all these buildings and just opened all these businesses so, yeah, it does, it feels like a Renaissance is going on. It feels like there's a good, you know, buzz and a very, like, new energy."