Old Town Saginaw’s Court Street Gallery finds success, new digs

After a year in operation, the owners of Court Street Gallery in Old Town Saginaw have learned two things: The business of art is a tough nut to crack, and it's time to change locations.

But don't read anything into the lessons learned by owners Paolo and Sarah Pedini. The couple is convinced a strong market exists in Saginaw for their retail art gallery, and the two are committed to Old Town.

So a few days ago, the owners of Court Street Gallery began moving the outlet's paintings, photographs, tapestries, and other artwork, one block north to 417 Hancock Street.

And that's not all the artists are taking up the street. The Pedinis also plan to tote the name, Court Street Gallery, with them to the new location.

"We thought it would be a good idea to continue with the name, at least for the time being, because we've built a following," says Paolo Pedini. "We plan to stay open pretty much through the whole move and we'll have a grand opening in the fall, probably October."

The new Hancock Street location offers a couple of important advantages over the Court Street venue. The new Hancock gallery will offer more exhibition space and street-level entry.

When the Pedinis opened their doors on Court Street in June 2009, they greeted Saginaw art lovers from a gallery and studios above Adomatis Antiques, which meant that customers had to trek up a full floor on creaking, wooden stairs.

"We definitely believe we needed to be on the ground floor," Pedini says. "After all, we're still a retail business and we need that flow of traffic from the street. Being on the second level has been a limitation."

That limitation, however, did not stop the Pedinis from building a base of customers and supporters. The Saginaw art community spread it arms wide open to the couple and their gallery, which has featured mostly the work of area artists.

Marsha Braun, director of marketing for the Saginaw Arts & Enrichment Commission, contends the Pedinis have added a whole new element to Old Town, and she's delighted with their planned move to Hancock Street.

"Of course, in Old Town we have the restaurants and bars and entertainment, but the gallery gives us another element," she says. "It brings us diversity. We are just thrilled to have Sarah and Paolo. I hope their success encourages others to step forward and develop other outlets for art. The more, the better. I'd love to see it take off and spread through the area.

"People are supporting them -- their events attract an enthusiastic and growing crowd. Plus, Sarah and Paolo are working on projects with the Saginaw Art Museum and others, so they've made themselves an integral part of the art community."

Court Street Gallery's first year of operation was a learning experience for the couple.
"No doubt about it, the art business is tough," says Pedini, "but we've found enough success here that we're being sustained financially and philosophically. Our patrons, the art community and our neighbors in Old Town, are showing up and supporting the venue.

"Our new exhibitions and the Last Friday events have been packed. We've had great turnouts, so we believe there is a place for us here."

In addition to street-level entry, the Hancock location's larger exhibit space opens the door for the work of more local artists. The artwork on display now is a varied mix of oil, water, acrylic, and photography.

Patrons are able to enjoy the lively skateboard art of Sean Gallagher, a high school art teacher at Unionville-Sebewaing Area schools who also is an adjunct staff member with Saginaw Valley State University's art department.

Customers and browsers also will find the eye-captivating acrylic paintings of Jim Fives, who displays a good sense of humor in his Artist's Statement, which reads in part: "I think most Artists Statements read like pretentious crap. I look at my work and see a bunch of fast cars and naked women and I wonder if, mentally, I have made it out of junior high school. I paint what moves me, and that's girls and cars. And color. …"

Gallery visitors also will view the interesting and thoughtful photography of Doug Thornhill, who hails from Bay City.

Besides the main exhibition room and hallway of the current gallery, artwork is on display, and for sale, almost everywhere -- even the unisex restroom, where three paintings, two drawings, a photo montage, and five antique mirrors overshadow an otherwise utilitarian facility.

"I don't think we're going to have a problem finding enough art to display," Pedini says, noting that he will likely mix in some work from artists in other regions. "We have a lot of very creative people throughout the area. We will probably have nearly double the exhibition space on Hancock Street and it will give us all kinds of possibilities. I'm very excited about the next step for us."


Paolo Pedini sits in his new gallery space in front of one of his paintings, "Left Whole," in Saginaw.

Paolo Pedini hangs some of his artwork in his new gallery space at 417 Hancock Street in Saginaw.

Court Street Gallery owner Paolo Pedini looks forward to the opening of his new location at 417 Hancock Street in Saginaw. The new location will open on Sept. 23.

"Untitled," one of Paolo's new paintings, hangs on the wall at the Court Street Gallery.

The front of the new Court Street Gallery location will soon get a face-lift to strip it of its old identity as Hancock Theatre.

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