Dustin Hartz, Myles Roznowski, Kyle Sajdak, and Drew Schmidt met as students at Bay City Western High School. The longtime friends, now each around 30 years old, have independently pursued their own creative endeavors and businesses over the years.
The quarantines and shutdowns of 2020 weren’t enough to keep the foursome down. They banded together to form Art Dept., a new art gallery and custom services workshop that opened late last year.
Upstairs it’s an art gallery, where the Art Dept. crew display their own work and that of their Bay City art heroes. Downstairs is the workshop, where they conduct the other half of their business. They offer an assortment of services, a mix that includes graphic design, CNC routing, vinyl graphics and stickers, and more.
“It’s kind of a grab bag of weird skills that we’ve picked up over the years that we decided to build a business around,” Schmidt says.
Four Bay City Western High School graduates opened a new art gallery and workshop in Bay City's Midland Street entertainment district.
Hartz owns Midland Street Books next door. Earlier in 2020, when he mentioned that the neighboring storefront was vacant, the group of friends began to hatch the idea for Art Dept.
The idea started as a coffee shop, brewery, and performance venue but as the restrictions forced by COVID-19 carried on through 2020, the group pivoted and came up with Art Dept.
The four worked for months on the space, cleaning and designing both the interior and exterior. The building’s colorful facade was inspired by the Painted Ladies of San Francisco, Schmidt says.
The business model will most likely evolve over the next year; COVID-19 restrictions will determine how much time is spent on building up the gallery or the workshop aspects of the business.
But for these four Bay City natives, the important thing is that things are just beginning to happen.
“It’s been awesome so far. We’re right on Midland Street, a place where we’ve all been on bar crawls and hung out,” Schmidt says.
“When we were repainting the facade, that entire week I was thinking about how nice it is to build up the city and do something unique, to help the city that we love.”
is open on Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. and by appointment. It is located at 805 E. Midland St. in Bay City.
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