Jackson's community art hub: Art 634

Art 634, an old warehouse that has been turned into an artist hub, has nurtured the art community in Jackson -- in southeast Michigan -- for several years. Artists of all types rent space to pursue their work in the two-story structure. Former owner Maggie Riggle described Art 634 as a “center for the creative spirit.”

Today, with new owner Andrea Ericksen at the helm, the future looks equally bright for Art 634. Ericksen took over the space in January and plans to continue to foster local creativity by building bonds and relationships with artists and supplying them with a place to practice and share their art with the community.

A new vision for Art 634 is in the works. Installing artist exhibitions, expanding the variety of art, and creating space for music, are on the table for Art 634’s next evolution. “They bring energy and a youthful vibrance,” says Diane Wilson, who works closely with Art 634 as the executive director of MSU Extension’s ArtShare program.

Location: Art 634 is located at 634 N. Mechanic St. in downtown Jackson, right across from Armory Arts, a local housing space for artists. Art 634 and the Armory Arts are not related businesses, but their proximity to one another creates a symbiotic relationship, helping the Jackson art community grow and offering artists a place to live and work in the heart of the city.

Art 634’s history: The building housing Art 634 was originally built in 1850 as a wagon and carriage factory. Over the years, its purpose changed many times, serving as both a warehouse and retail space.

Its evolution into creative space began with Steve Sales, a sculptor from Jackson. He imagined the structure as a hub for artists to grow, work, and collaborate. “He did a lot of metalwork, like door handles and architectural elements that are still part of the building. He made the signage on the building,” says Wilson. Sales later sold Art 634 to Maggie Riggle.

With the aid of ArtSpace, a company that repurposes buildings for artistic use, the old factory was transformed into “a live-work space for artists with rent based on income. Artists would live on the upper floors with retail below,” says Amy Wellington, project manager at MSU Extension’s ArtShare. “It would be the solution to artists being gentrified out of their spaces.”

With the later addition of the Armory Arts, the two buildings split responsibilities. The Armory would house the artists and Art 634 would provide them with studio and retail space.

Community impact: Between Art 634 and the Armory Arts, the art community in Jackson has been helped tremendously. “It’s an incubator” says Wellington, “having physical space means a lot to an artist trying to get their legs under them.” Art 634 has been a stepping stone for many artists to monetize their work and make a career from their passion.

Wilson adds, “A number of artists that have launched came through Art 634.” Artists who have come through Art 634 have continued on to create their own personal brand and even build brick and mortar store fronts.

The synergy between the two establishments meant that a sleepy corner of Jackson was thrust into the cultural spotlight as a center for the creative spirit. Afternoons and evenings are filled with the sound of music, smell of paint, and the sight of a neighborhood joining together to participate in the arts.

What you can expect to find: Art 634 celebrates all the arts: music, dance, media, painting, pottery, and theater and is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. On a daily basis, there are classes, shows and fairs.

Visitors can enjoy adult hip hop dance one day, then return the next day to learn how to draw. Arts and craft shows are also hosted here and open to the public. Art 634 is also available as a wedding venue.

What’s next: Residents of Jackson can expect to see Art 634 continue its mission to support the arts and the artists that call Jackson their home. Expansions are ongoing. A new studio has added space for community classes and plans to open up a space for music. Art 634 is going through the next phase in its evolution and all eyes are watching to see how the art community in Jackson will continue to grow from this space.