March 8 2017 11:28 AM

Lansing Art Gallery adds Katrina Daniels, MICA Gallery becomes ‘volunteer-led space’

Katrina Daniels (right) stands with Barb Whitney, executive director of Lansing Art Gallery, in front of a fabric art piece at the gallery. Daniels joins Lansing Art Gallery this month as exhibitions and gallery sales director.
Ty Forquer/City Pulse

Former MICA Gallery program director Katrina Daniels has a new gig, but she isn’t moving far. Lansing Art Gallery & Education Center, 119 N. Washington Square, about a mile south of MICA’s Old Town digs, announced last week that Daniels will join its staff as exhibitions and gallery sales director.

At Lansing Art Gallery, Daniels will help judge exhibitions, handle artist contracts and installations, oversee the gallery’s retail space and manage interns, docents and volunteers. During her time at MICA Gallery, Daniels partnered with community groups and businesses like Bloom Coffee Roasters, the Lansing Derby Vixens and the Lansing Bike Party to bring new audiences into the gallery. She’s hoping to bring similar programming to the Lansing Art Gallery.

“One of the things I found challenging at MICA is that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable in formal art spaces,” Daniels said. “Having a non-traditional partnership can create an opportunity for people who are maybe new to the arts to engage with a more formal art space.”

Daniels is a graduate of Michigan State University, where she studied interior design, art history and museum studies. She has been involved in the Lansing art scene for over a decade, including a 2007 internship at Lansing Art Gallery.

Barb Whitney, executive director of the Lansing Art Gallery, was happy to find a fit for the position so close to home.

“We looked at many candidates from all over the state for this particular position,” she said. “Katrina’s resume would have been enough, but having worked with her personally and professionally for over a decade, it’s such a joy to have her on board.”

Daniels starts her new job March 16. One of her challenges will be drawing new traffic to the Lansing Art Gallery’s downtown location, on the lower level of a building on the north end of Lansing’s downtown retail district. MICA Gallery, by contrast, benefitted from the bustling retail scene in Old Town.

“That’s one of the great things about where MICA is located,” Daniels said. “I could just open the door on a warm day, put a sign outside and put some music on, and people just flowed in naturally.” Downtown, by contrast, is busy all day but quiet on nights and weekends.

“We’ll have to find inventive ways of drawing people to the space — or bringing the work to them,” Daniels said.

That is likely to involve activities like the Lansing Art Gallery’s summer popup art activities, which brings art demonstrations out to the sidewalks. Future projects could venture even further from the gallery.

“We’re really excellent grant writers here,” Whitney said. “Within the next year, (Katrina will) be able to be one the best grant writers in Michigan. If you can dream it, you can do it. We can make the case to funders that we should go outside the gallery walls to reach populations where they live.”

Or, perhaps, the gallery itself will go somewhere else. Whitney said Lansing Art Gallery is not committed to downtown and is actively exploring other options.

“Strategically, one of our ultimate goals is looking at new facilities,” Whitney said. “We’re looking between Frandor and the Capitol and between REO Town and Old Town. There are a couple of big projects in the works that we may want to be a part of.”

Up in Old Town, MICA Gallery has no plans to replace Daniels. Terry Terry, president of MICA’s board of directors, said the gallery will “return to its roots as a volunteer-led space.”

Terry said the gallery is effectively closed until next month, when he plans to exhibit a show he is curating. Beyond that, the future of the space is unclear.

“We’re looking to other arts organizations to maintain a community space,” he said.

Terry is hoping to find a “collective” of local arts groups willing to curate shows and take on day-to-day gallery duties. MICA will continue to produce Lansing JazzFest and Michigan BluesFest, and Terry said a MICA-produced exhibition of motorcycle art in Detroit’s Hart Plaza is in the works for this summer. He’s also hoping to take an exhibition of Michigan visual artists on tour to galleries across the U.S.

Terry seemed open to the idea of a gallery-less version of MICA.

“I like to have a physical gallery, but the world is changing,” he said. “Maintaining a brick and mortar space is not core to our mission.”

Groups like the Lansing Poetry Club and DANCE Lansing often use MICA as an event space. When asked if these groups would still have access to the space, the best Terry could offer is “probably yes.” He said it will take some time for MICA Gallery find its bearings as a director-less space.

“It’s going to take a few months to regroup,” he said.