Artist needs your photos to create an exhibit at Studio 23 capturing the essence of community life

You know those old pictures you don’t know what to do with? Studio 23/The Arts Center and printmaker Jay Handy have an idea.

Handy, who grew up in Bay City and lives in Wisconsin now, has shown his work in galleries around the world. Most recently, he was part of the “A World Without End” exhibit in London. Visit his website for examples of his work.

Now, he is focused on gathering photos from all over Bay County. He wants your photos (amateur or professional) of families, landmarks, everyday moments, and special occasions.

He’ll take those photos, combine some together, add texture via an 1840s press, and create something new. What he creates will be displayed at Studio 23/The Arts Center in March 2022. Several pieces will become part of a permanent collection.

The goal is for Handy and the community to collaborate to build the exhibit. Studio 23 Executive Director Tara Welch says Handy brings a new perspective to the community.

“We want to ingrain him into the community,” she says.

Photo courtesy of Studio 23Handy - who has exhibited his work all over the world - visited Bay City recently to announce the project. He’ll return in March as an artist in residence to interact with people and lead community workshops before the display featuring his work is unveiled.

“The fun part is they really are going to make the exhibit with Jay,” Welch says.

During a recent luncheon at Studio 23, Handy laughed off the praise of his work and instead turned the spotlight onto the community.

“Art is so important to a community,” he explains. “Art is what I like to think of as how a community feels about itself. Bay City is proud of art and encourages involvement in that.”

In the 40some years since he moved away from Bay City, Handy says he’s seen growth in the community and how it embraces art. The time away also hasn’t dimmed his love for his hometown.

“There’s a sense of community that I never lost, that I love here,” he says.

He hopes to further that sense of community with this exhibit. Before the exhibit becomes real, though, he needs your help. Handy is looking for photos from the community. He’ll accept photos from any era, but says he often feels drawn to older images.

You have a couple options for submitting photos. If you already have the photos in an electronic format, click here to submit them through his website. If you have print photos, then Studio 23 is making a scanner available. Stop by Studio 23, 901 N. Water St., and they’ll help you scan the photo into a format that can be submitted via the website.

You don’t have to know the back story to submit a photo. However, if you do know the story, there is room to include it when you submit the photo.

Handy says he hopes to collect thousands of photos. He expects to winnow that down to 30 to 50 for the final exhibit.

Submissions are due by Nov. 1. All finished works will be framed by March 14. The 8-week exhibit opens March 24. Before then, Studio 23 will create a calendar of workshops related to the exhibit.

The Bay Area Community Foundation is underwriting the exhibit, which Studio 23 Curator Valerie Allen hopes captures the community’s imagination. She is excited to see what comes from the collaboration.

“This project will really grow wings and fly around,” she says.
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Read more articles by Kathy Roberts.

Kathy Roberts, a graduate of Central Michigan University, moved to Bay City in 1987 to start a career in the newspaper industry. She was a reporter and editor at the Bay City Times for 15 years before leaving to work at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, Covenant HealthCare, and Ohno Design. In 2019, she returned to her storytelling roots as the Managing Editor of Route Bay City. When she’s not editing or writing stories, you can find her reading books, knitting, or visiting the bars of Bay County. You can reach Kathy at