Craft House

Craft House was an event-based exhibition space located on the Avenue for the Arts in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. Craft House provided exhibition opportunities and educational events to artists from 2013-2016.

Surface Tension | Ann Chuchvara, Jennifer Kaplan, Ryan Klotz curated by Amanda Carmer Rainey | an Art.Downtown Exhibition
Saturday, April 9, 2016

Surface Tension features artworks that engage real and perceived material surfaces, point to contextual conditions and fine art traditions, and ask us to look past immediate appearances to make meaning. Ryan Klotz massive ‘canvas-on-canvas’ oil painting points to the minimalists’ idealization of raw materials and rejection of personal expression but embraces representation and traditional oil painting techniques. Ann Chuchvara’s sculptures consist of thin plastics first printed with wallpaper-like patterns and then shredded and loosely woven together. Ann’s material is fiber-like but clearly inorganic, both delicate and hard—like decorative Easter basket lining—they hang on the inner walls of the gallery; internal to Ryan’s external painting. This placement hints at a relationship between falsity, fibers, and the imagery of Ryan’s work. Jennifer Kaplan’s work occupies the window space and serves to push the boundary between raw materials and representation further by presenting hybrids of raw / manipulated, abstracted / figurative forms. The installation is part of a larger, on-going project titled History of Touch and is site-responsive to the space it occupies.  Figurative porcelain forms, earth, vessel, salt, and mixed clay bodies take us into the territory of geological processes and quicker organic growth; the physical evidence of time and touch; dismembered and recombined bodies; parts into whole.

Together Ryan, Ann, and Jennifer share an interest in the inherent characteristics of their chosen materials—paint and canvas, plastics and patterns, earth and minerals—but the outcomes they derive go beyond those surfaces to engage external conditions including the history of modernist practices, representation versus abstraction, and the body (both personally experienced and shared). Meaning is found beyond the surface, where these characteristics and conditions collide.


On Reaching Capacity | Ryan Hay
March 27 - April 2, 2016

"The work in this show was created in response to two years of creative impotence. From 2012 - 2014, I was unable to “connect” with any of the songs or poems I was writing. The pursuit, the process, the product—all felt hollow, and the built-up creative energy was suffocating. At the beginning of 2015, my wife encouraged me to start painting alongside her. By the end of the year, I’d created 75 paintings over six unique series, and they had overtaken my walls, closets, and floors. Once again, I’d reached capacity. These paintings represent the complete first series."  -Ryan Hay


Tabula Rasa | JoLee Kirkikis
March 20 - 26, 2016

"Tabula Rasa, noun:   

-An absence of preconceived ideas or predetermined goals, the human mind being viewed as having no innate ideas

Literally translated as “blank slate” this epistemological idea refers to how humans become themselves through the experiences they collect and participate in. This mixed media work is composed of personal imagery of loved ones and strangers encountered alike, repurposed and reimagined to visually represent a personal mythology based on absence and growth.  The work through its raw and un-archival materials reflect the goals of my art and personhood of finding strength in vulnerability, the vitality of sensitivity, and the importance of remaining soft."   -JoLee Kirkirkis


Safe Home | Jeen Na
March 13 - 19, 2016

"Safe Home is a collection of images consisting of editorial portraits and lifestyle-inspired, environmental photographs. The body of work acts as a visual record preserving the quiet nuances in life that shape who we become, but are often overlooked due to their brevity. The title, Safe Home, roots itself in these feelings of security and comfort which are typically attributed to the idea of a home, rather than a physical home and reflects my own thoughts on the concept of what actually makes a home feel like home."  -Jeen Na


Semblance | Mellissa Redman
March 6 -12, 2016

"My work explores what lies just beneath the facade of a perfectly crafted daily mask. Layering, obscuring, and revealing occurs naturally in my use of resins and water-based media. We are solitary creatures by default who need interaction, but our contemporary society has become so enamored with increasingly un-meaningful and distracting ways to interact with others that individuals are no longer fully able to (or event want to) be alone with themselves. The constant distraction from reconciling genuine emotional troubles within oneself or in relationships then becomes hidden and fiercely guarded. "
-Mellissa Redman


Elementary | Anthony Mead
February 28 - March 5, 2016

"Subjective allegory is at the root system of my creative research. The viewer brings with them a history of personal context, life experiences, belief systems, education, emotional outlook, environment and any other number of different influences. I insert triggers of familiarity from popular culture, religious iconography, mathematical and scientific formula, written language and the cosmos into my work as a point of departure for the viewers personal investigation into the narrative they will create. This builds off historically conventional artistic concepts like landscapes, monuments, portraits, and mythology leading down a pathway of analogy to arrive at questions more than conclusions."  -Anthony Mead


Negative Capability | Nicholas Szymanski
January - February 2016

Szymanski's work is both an homage to it's apparent minimalist roots and also a break with modernist tradition. Self described as "non-objective" rather than minimalist, Szymanski's subtly shifting, color-field paintings are inspired by images, objects, and experiences that have been, not so much recorded on the canvas as responded to, with poured acrylic and oil paint, rubbed or sanded away, and covered over again until a resolution presents itself. Craft House will feature Szymanski's work January 16 through February 26, 2016 with three events; a Collectors' Preview / Opening Reception on Saturday January 16, from 4-9pm; an Avenue for the Arts First Friday reception on Friday February 5, from 6-9pm; and a Closing Reception on Friday February 26, from 6-9pm. A special edition of mono prints will be released during the First Friday event on February 5.


The Daily Robot Shop | Alexis Brannan
November 29 - December 5, 2015

The Daily Robot Shop is the personal creative practice project of Alexis Brannan, Alexis is a Grand Rapids-based educational designer and blogger. My personal favorite blog is her's: http://mistakesbythelake.com


Secondary Perception | Jessica Benson
November 15 - 21, 2015

Creating works that are visually captivating and intricate out of seemingly contradictory materials effectively generates larger conceptual profundities within her work, particularly in relation to viewer perception and object elevation. Using and reusing these materials articulates the notions of awareness and respect of the natural world, our perception of it and ultimately our relationship with it.

         Through a reverence for materials, craft and content, Jessica provides the viewer with a different perspective on use, function and deification apart from that of our particular culture backgrounds. Studying cultural differences in relation to animal usage and how these idiosyncrasies develop based on climate, religion and abundance of animal life, these anthropological findings are used as a springboard within her sculptural practice.


Formed | Jenn Schaub
November 1 - 7, 2015

Featuring new works and experiments in clay and sculpture by Jenn Schaub. Traditionally a printmaker and craftsperson, Jenn recently took up working with clay to radically shift her creative process. Guests are invited to discuss new, exploratory, in-progress works.

Formed took place on an Avenue for the Arts First Friday. 


HERESY | Reuben Garcia, Nick Hartman, and Tom Jenkins
Friday, October 30, 2015

Heresy is a one-night-only celebration of all things dark, twisted, and terrible on Devils Night, 2015.


Fireside Chats | Britt Spencer | an ArtPrize Exhibition
September 23 - October 11, 2015

Spencer's work is big--canvases measure between 4' x 5' to 6' x 8'. It is bold--ketchup red, McDonald's yellow, caution sign orange mix with soft sage greens and pinks. And it challenges conventional taste. Spencer prefers the terms “red herring storytelling” and “impotent narratives." His scenes are both vividly descriptive and frustratingly vague while gently referencing cultural taboos with sexual imagery and ambiguous violence. Spencer makes use of, or rather misuses, signs in a way to obscure communication and increase the distance between the viewer and artist. "Fireside Chats" is a nod to FDR’s "fireside chats”, a series of radio addresses that became a staple of Roosevelt's presidency. Criticism of these evening broadcasts pointed to political objectives that were delivered to the masses under a label that belied their intentions. In this case, the title suggest all sorts of virtues; warmth, family, confidence, strength, narratives and the sharing of ideas in the development of meaningful relationships, but in reality Spencer's work is very different, if not exactly the opposite of these things.  


Thoughts of Home | The Co-Op Project | Summer 2014 | Kate Garman, Coco Spencer, Michael Rodriquez, Jena Para, Deven Brawley

The Co-op Project, supported in part by a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, will bring together eight diverse individuals to collaborate on a group-determined artistic experience. The methods and product of their efforts will be entirely the result of their own making. In essence, the Co-op Project is an opportunity to make something new and different in a popular and accessible storefront gallery space, in collaboration with talented creative people. 

Statement of Purpose and Hypothesis

An extended cooperative project at Craft House, unlike a one-time event or exhibition, offers it's participants the opportunity to more deeply explore the gallery's location, specifically the Avenue for the Arts corridor on S. Division Avenue. This corridor is home to hundreds of diverse individuals, representing a wide range of experience and circumstance. Home on S. Division Avenue – it's physical form, it's emotional memory, and it's future expectation – is no doubt very different for each of these individuals.

Over the course of the project, the Co-op will examine ideas of home – finding it, losing it, what it means to feel at home, what it consists of, memories of earlier homes and dreams for the future. Each member will begin with self-reflection on home. Secondly, members will exchange their experience of home with one another. Finally, each member will engage at least two neighbors living or working on or near S. Division Avenue to learn about their experiences of home. Members are encouraged to document and/or respond to each step of the project through the media of their choosing. Select works will be exhibited or performed once per month at Craft House.

The Co-op anticipates the project will strengthen our capabilities to listen, learn and respond. Additionally, it will introduce more community members to the possibilities of art making and viewing as means for understanding complex ideas of identity and place.