Blog: Jenny Callans

"Art doesn't transform. It just plain forms." - Roy Lichtenstein. Dedicated to making the arts a community pillar for Macomb County is Dr. Jennifer Callans, executive director of the Anton Art Center. This week Jenny will open the discussion on arts funding, programming, and the art community's changing demographics.

Post 3: An Itty-Bitty Art Show

Alfred Taubman's concept of "threshold resistance" applies to arts organizations just as to retailers:  If people have the perception that a business is out of their price range, they're less likely to step inside and spend money.  Likewise, galleries, art museums and art centers struggle to attract new visitors and patrons because of a belief by some that fine art is intimidating, or incomprehensible, or requires special training to enjoy.

Most art centers combat threshold resistance by taking art out into the community – via Art in Public Places programs, community beautification initiatives, and by hosting events such as art fairs.  

Ultimately, though, we hope to get people across that threshold and into the art center itself, because that's the best way to develop a relationship with the community we serve.  Once inside, they'll see the center's gift shop, featuring work by Michigan artists; they might peek in on a painting or clay class; and of course, they'll see the exhibitions in the Main Galleries, the Petitpren Community Gallery and the Boll History Gallery.

Exhibition coordinator Alison Wong works with a volunteer committee of metro Detroit artists (Sarah Burger, Kelly Frank, Scott Michalski and Benjamin Teague) to plan an exhibition schedule that is balanced but challenging.  

In April 2011, look for Cabinet, which will feature displays of works collected by the center's Exhibition Committee, in order to give visitors to the center a sense of the committee's aesthetic.  Artists whose work will be on exhibit will be invited to auction off studio visits, with the proceeds benefiting the artists themselves.  Cabinet will include a collaboration with Meadow Brook Hall in the Boll History Gallery, also on the theme of collecting.  

In addition to giving regular visitors a feel for how the Exhibition Committee works, Cabinet is intended to explore the very idea of what makes an art collection, so that viewers can think about what kind of a collection engages them, and perhaps then take the step of making a purchase.  Imagine: View a show about collecting, snag a studio visit as a result, and perhaps make a purchase.  All those thresholds crossed – gallery, studio, home – as a result of a single exhibition.

We'll build on that with a size-limited, open call show in the fall.  Untitled as of yet, works that do not exceed 6" in any direction will be accepted.  The exhibition will be open to all artists 18 and older.  Based on past experience with our postcard-themed shows, the Exhibition Committee expects to receive work from all over the world, in all media, and any work that meets the guidelines (to be announced in early 2011) will be accepted.

One goal of this 6x6x6 show is to give as many artists as possible an opportunity to exhibit.  Another target, though, is to carry on the collecting theme – because most of the work will be priced for sale.  Come in, peruse itty-bitty works in all media, and perhaps take something home, without worrying where it will fit or if it will break the bank!

That personal relationship with art is what we hope to cultivate, and part of what our Founding Mothers hoped to promote when they founded the center in 1969.  Art is an individual means of expression, it helps people communicate, and gives communities a sense of identity.  Isn't it worth a little time and money to reap such dividends?