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The Cedar Street Art Collective

The Cedar Street Art Collective, a new communal retail and studio space for Lansing-based artists to create and sell their art, moved into the former home of Dicker & Deal earlier this year.

On Sunday, Sept. 17, a few dozen people drifted in and out of an open house at a commercial building in Lansing’s Baker Neighborhood, just south of downtown. Between noon and 5 p.m., they milled about, perused a small collection of paintings and upcycled furniture, and sat in on short Q&A sessions about the new entity that had moved into the location. For nearly half a century, the building had been home to one of Lansing’s more colorful entrepreneurial success stories, but those who showed up on Sunday learned how the building’s new tenants are slowly transforming it into something called the Cedar Street Art Collective.

“We’ve been working on [the building] since February, but it’s been an organic process so it’s taking a little time,” said Andrew Sandstedt, creative director for the Cedar Street Art Collective. “We’ve had one other event like this where we let people take a peek inside to see what we’re doing, and there’s definitely been a lot of excitement. It’s good to see people get excited about art.”

The Cedar Street Art Collective hopes to be a mecca for artists who will be able to rent studio space to work on pieces. Then on weekends, the building will open to the public for pop-up art shows, presentations and special art-themed events. It’s a novel way to connect the community with working artists, while sidestepping the traditional gallery model.

“This is going to be fairly different from any kind of art studio or gallery in Lansing,” Sandstedt said. “The rental prices will be very affordable, and we won’t be taking any commission from the artists. The goal is to very much be connected to the neighborhood and keep the focus on fine art that’s made here locally from recycled materials.”

Sandstedt is the building’s first resident artist, and his studio is paying the rent for now. Most of his art is made from repurposed materials, including scrap metal, and he’s reached out to upcycling artists first in his attempt to build the collective. That old-is-new theme is intentionally tied to the building’s owner and former resident, Dicker and Deal, which last year left its home of 43 years to move a mile down the street into a newly refurbished, $1-million space.

That new location, 2420 S. Cedar St., is now a destination business, drawing a mix of actual shoppers and wideeyed rubberneckers gawking at all the taxidermied animals, neon signs and glass cases displaying artfully arranged, notfor-sale antique toys, housewares and memorabilia. Sandstedt hopes to capture some of that lighting in a bottle Dicker and Deal has tapped into and put the Cedar Street Art Collective on the map as a mustsee for folks swinging through Lansing.

“I definitely think we have the potential to become a destination spot for visitors,” Sandstedt said. “We’ve got a similar mindset as Dicker and Deal, with how we take old things and give them a new life, so I think there are some great opportunities for collaboration and cross-promotion. And it’s good to know they’re fully supportive of us. They could have let this building sit empty, but they believe in what we’re doing.”

Sandstedt’s partners in the venture are Annie Signs, who works as the collective’s operations manager, and building manager Donna McPherson. He said McPherson, who helped coordinate the Dicker and Deal move, approached him because of his connection to the art scene in Lansing. Sandstedt recently completed a term sitting on the board for the East Lansing Art Festival, and stepped down so he could compete in the juried competition next year. He’s also competed in every Old Town ScrapFest contest since its inception in 2009.

“My five-year plan is to be doing art full time, so this is all very much in line with my goals,” Sandstedt said. “I think there are a lot of people out there like me, with full-time jobs who want to be artists. I think we’re going to be able to help a lot of people realize their dreams. And a lot of cool art is going to be made along the way.”

Over the summer, local painter Tod C. Parkhill made a mural filled with hidden references to life in Lansing on the building’s north-facing wall; some of his work was on display Sunday at the open house. New flowerbeds were planted, and

another mural is planned for next spring on the south wall. A new sign also hangs over the front door featuring the collective’s de facto logo: a whimsically doodled Technicolor folk art hand that seems to wave at the steady stream of traffic zipping up and down Cedar Street out front.

“It’s definitely inspired people to stop in to see what we’re doing,” Sandstedt said. “A lot of people who live nearby have come in to say how great it is to have something creative in the neighborhood.” And there are still people who pop in thinking it’s Dicker and Deal. “I tell them it’s moved a few blocks down, but then they stay and look around anyway,” Sandstedt said.

The building will also feature a performance space when complete. Already, the room has hosted local dance groups Salsa Capital and Speakeasy Stomp. Sandstedt envisions a small stage for poetry readings, singer/songwriters, and artist presentations on their work. For his part, Sandstedt sees the Cedar Street Art Collective as the natural continuation of the city’s already thriving art scene.

“Right now, places like the Broad [Museum] and the Lansing Art Gallery are doing a phenomenal job bringing in national and world artists to the area,” Sandstedt said. “They’re getting people paying attention to art who never did before. We’re doing things proactively to perpetuate the idea that art is for everybody.”

Cedar Street Art Collective 1701 S. Cedar St. Lansing Hours by appointment only (517) 402-2497, facebook.com/ lansingart

Know of any potential locations for New in Town? Email Allan I. Ross at allaniross@gmail. com.