The Krasl Art Center Members’ Show: The Heart of the Community
When I walked into the Krasl Art Center (KAC) in St. Joseph, Michigan, I didn’t expect it to be so alive. I have visited a decent amount of art galleries and even more art museums, but they always felt a little bit like cathedrals—relics of the past, not centers of the community.
Enter the Krasl Art Center.
From the moment you walk in, the KAC feels welcoming. A gift shop features handmade jewelry, ceramics, clothing and more; a bar serves drinks; a stunning glass Chihuly chandelier hangs above you; clean white walls highlight the collection inside. At the Members’ Show Opening Party I visited on Friday, Sept. 15, children played outside and greeters were quick to make conversation. The more time I spent there, the more obvious it became: the art was only part of the reason why people came. What really mattered were the artists who stood by to discuss their work, the community that had sprung up around this little gallery in the middle of Michigan. Sure, Leonardo Da Vinci hadn’t shown up—but St. Joseph had in microcosm, and the chatter and excitement swirling through the KAC touched everyone who entered.
Once inside the gallery portion of the center, a riot of different pieces ranging from sculpture to watercolor to quilting vie for attention. The member’s show spotlights artists who contribute monetarily to the KAC, so there wasn’t a major unifying theme to the artwork, and nearly every piece was by a different artist (including one by Andrews Professor Emeritus Greg Constantine). The result was a collection of art that was usually beautiful, occasionally brilliant, and often downright weird—but always interesting.
One painting that particularly caught my eye was titled “Two Angels” by Meredith Schmidt. Schmidt made an oil painting of a young girl looking up at an older woman swathed in white, who could be a sculpture or a spirit. The piece simultaneously evokes the winged statue of Victory at the Louvre and the Fearless Girl of Wall Street. In the artist’s words, it is “meant to honor family and friends who have gone before us—and are always connected.” I couldn’t help seeing this connection between the goddess of Victory, sculpted over two millennia ago, and an oh-so-contemporary little girl with her hands on her hips, standing before a bull in the middle of New York City.
As I walked around the gallery, I found myself thinking that this was what art was supposed to be: connective tissue between people and generations, reinterpreted and reworked to be both personal and universal. It’s easy to dismiss art sometimes as belonging to the past—meant for the hallowed halls of the Met or the Smithsonian. At the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph, however, art is vital, changing, alive: not an afterthought or a relic but the very lifeblood of the community.
The Krasl Art Center’s Members’ Show is open until Oct. 29, 2017.