Blog: Carl Goines

For Carl Goines its all about the arts. A native Metro Detroiter, he's a founder, Co-Director and board member of Detroit's 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios. He'll be writing about what it takes to keep a non-profit arts organization going in Michigan.

Post No 2: 555 Takes Shape and Moves

 After art school, I found a studio in the Technology Center, an industrial warehouse full of artists, craftsmen, and creative small businesses in downtown Ann Arbor. After spending a couple of months building custom furniture and sculpting in a tiny room by myself I was lured into sharing a large space with Monte, which we decided should be called 555. 

As we scraped away at years of filth and funk we began to develop the idea of opening our studio work space to the public. We wanted to change the public perception that art should only be viewed in a white walled pristine gallery space by putting people in the middle of the working art studio experience. Once we opened the door we realized that we needed to make our studio available to the artists in the community that could not show their work in the downtown Ann Arbor galleries. Our studio space became a combination of gallery and work space merged into one. We exhibited art work, hosted bands, performance artists, community & student activist events, installation exhibitions, and a wedding reception for an Ann Arbor artist.

The city of Ann Arbor could not support the alternative arts scene at the Technology Center warehouse, the property was slated for demolition to make way for a new sleek YMCA. We found ourselves looking for the closest affordable work space and moved to downtown Ypsilanti, adding more artists to the group.  We rented a warehouse 10 times the size of our space in Ann Arbor from the City of Ypsilanti. Studio's were set up, gallery space was built out, meetings with DDA members and city planners were held. After a year of developing the space and learning how to navigate the city red tape we found ourselves again needing to move. The city of Ypsilanti wanted to demo our building as part of the Riverside Development Project, given the choice of renting month to month while the development project moved forward or finding a new space, we started looking.

Drawn into Detroit by the prospects of finding affordable and flexible space we started exploring the city. The potential was, and still is, inspiring. As we searched for new space we began to develop the organization's structure. We wanted to provide studio and gallery space not only for ourselves but provide for other artists and educate the public about art, artists, and their roles in the community. 

555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios became the official tag and we dove into researching nonprofit arts organizations and resources for the arts. While attending a Cool Cities Conference we met Ric Geyer, who at the time was an executive-on-loan to the Governor working to develop the Cool Cities Initiatives.  Ric's 4731 Gallery and Studios was downtown and he was interested in purchasing more buildings. Hearing that we were interested in moving to Detroit he offered to lease space to us with the idea that we could continue to develop 555 and work to purchase the buildings from him after a couple of years establishing ourselves in Detroit. We took the offer and found ourselves beginning the process of renovation, building, exhibiting, learning nonprofit management, and cultivating relationships with artists and art supporters in Detroit.

Four years later and we are seeing the end of our 5 year lease around the corner. Feeling the effects of Michigan's economic downturn we've managed to stay afloat with the help of a diverse and persistent group of volunteers. The price of the building has grown to include several other properties and jumped close to half a million dollars. Our funds are low, we've poured ourselves and our finances into developing the space. Our goal now is to ramp up the quality of our programs, tighten our shoestring budget, and find a way to keep it moving forward.