Aug. 10 2011 12:00 AM

REO Town gallery/performance space celebrates its first birthday and makes plans for the future


REO Town’s Art Alley is celebrating its
one-year anniversary and looking back on its many inroads into the art
community during that 12-month-long trial by fire.

Diane Wilson, Art Alley’s creative
director, said that in the beginning the Art Alley team didn’t know what
would happen. They’ve had to undertake a continuous search for sponsors
and grants, and had to put a lot of projects on hold while they do. 

Even so, that hasn’t held them back. For
starters, they’ve hosted a variety of musicians and local artists that
people otherwise might never have discovered.

“Our goal is to get people out of their
garages and showing people the work they’re making,” Wilson said. “We’re
just excited to give them another venue.”

They’ve worked with nonprofits like
Village Summit and provided display space for local high school
students, and all with an organization based entirely on volunteers.

Perhaps most important, though, they’ve worked to rejuvenate REO Town.

Alice Brinkman, director of the Reach Art
Studio also located in REO Town, noted that while the area’s
revitalization is a slow process, Art Alley has been a notable step in
the right direction.

“Art Alley is the only art gallery in REO
Town,” Brinkman said, “and it provides a great base for artists in the
Lansing area and beyond. We (at Reach) have been able to use Art Alley
for our art shows, which has been great to have as space for putting on
exhibitions, and it’s been a great place for us to be able to have art
openings for our kids’ projects.”

Art Alley’s biggest accomplishment in
this first year, however, has been the ambitious project known as
MI-ArtShare, a project designed to help the arts flourish in Michigan —
and to help artists flourish as well — by allowing shows to move
seamlessly between galleries for maximum exposure.

For example, a show that begins at Art
Alley could then be booked in whole or in part at multiple venues over
the course of a month, or even a week. This serves to create what Wilson
called “cultural economic development.” 

“That means artists can work in the area
and be able to stay in the area,” Wilson says. "Having your artists and
your creative folks today is what makes your community attractive for
other people. They want something to see, something to do when they’re
not working. And we also need artists to be able to make a living doing
what they do — (to make) a living creating.”

The first partner gallery has already
opened in Charlotte, and ArtShare itself operates across six counties.
Wilson hopes to one day forge ArtShare into a statewide art network.

But at the local level, Art Alley has one
simple wish for the future. One day, Wilson said, they hope to have
something happening there each day of the week. That takes time and
money and, given that Art Alley refuses to host any show that they can’t
pay the artist for, dedication.

But, as Wilson said, “It’s our decision, it’s part of our mission. It’s our duty to you.”

Art Alley
1133 S. Washington Ave., Lansing
Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. Other hours are by appointment.
Contact, or call (517) 898-4046