Lansing Art Gallery reopens with a strong commitment to accessible art


The Lansing Art Gallery has been around in one form or another since 1965, and with its latest move, the art gallery is set to be even more accessible with the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center space at Knapp’s Center at 300 S. Washington Sq. in downtown Lansing.

For nearly 60 years, the Lansing Art Gallery has provided Michigan artists with the opportunity to exhibit and sell their work. The gallery’s mission is to create awareness, education and enjoyment of the arts.

Moving from their former location lower on Washington Sq., this 8,000 square foot space will now be above ground, filled with natural light, which executive director Barby Whitney is thrilled about.

“Our new location has a lot right across the street where people can park, it’s a daily rate only, so hopefully there will be regular spaces available very close to there, as well as some number of ramps within a block or two,” Whitney said. “We are also very close to the main CATA hub, so public transport accessibility is even more evident.”

Based on feedback from artists and the community through surveys, interviews, and anecdotal comments, the gallery learned that people hoped the space would include natural light and dedicated parking.

People working on art projects. Photo courtesy of Lansing Art Gallery.

Whitney also spoke about the atmosphere of the gallery and what it aims to be for the artist community. Artists can teach, exhibit, or sell art through the Retail Gallery.

“We’re a place where everyone can enjoy art, create art, and for our professional artists, it’s a way for them to make a living. We’re a place where we encourage creativity and self-expression, and we’re also a way for our professional Michigan artists to show and sell.

The gallery also has ties to the East Lansing community.

One of the artists on display is Nancy McRay, a former resident of East Lansing for 40 years. She attended MSU and discovered her love for weaving while taking classes at the East Lansing Arts Workshop, located in the former Marble Elementary School.

Photo courtesy of Nancy McRay

Artist Nancy McRay.

After returning to school to pursue an art degree, McRay began working at East Lansing Recreation and Arts (ELRA) as the Fine Arts Coordinator, working closely with the East Lansing Art Festival and the East Lansing Arts Commission. Although she loved her job, she missed making art.

“I left my job at ELRA after five years and opened an artist co-op space with Leslie Donaldson and Sue Hensel,” McRay said. “Our space was located in an upstairs room on Grand River that probably doesn’t exist anymore. It was called the Art Department.

The space was 100% self-funded and artist-run. At the back of McRay’s mind, however, there was always the idea of ​​owning a yarn store.

“There was a small room available in the same hallway as the art department, just above PT O’Malley,” McRay said. “I first stocked it with my own hand-dyed yarns. I had exhibited my work at the Trillium Gallery on Grand River, and the owner, Kali Halpern, encouraged me to show some hand-dyed yarns. hand. I used to dye the yarns for my weaving, to get the right colors, in the right quantities. Eventually, I had a significant presence in his shop. It made sense to have my own space.

Photo courtesy of Nancy McRay

An example of McRay’s work.

This space became known as woven art, with McRay’s yarns to buy and some looms available for students. “My clients turned out to be mainly knitters. And while they seemed to like hand dyed, they also needed a selection of commercial yarns. more trade leads than I could find.

McRay fondly reflects on growing the business, relationships with customers and longtime employees, but always missed making art. “After selling Woven Art to Meg Croft, I started a home studio and enjoyed working there for a few years,” she said.

Today, she resides near Traverse City and is happy to remake art regularly, using her chosen medium, fiber. The self-proclaimed artist obsessed with tapestry likes to discover ancient art.

“I do a lot of experimentation now with wedge weaves, quirky weaves, additional elements, etc.,” she said, “but always with the intention of expressing something of my relationship with this place.”

McRay will exhibit three pieces in the new space of the Lansing Art Gallery. She talked about “Burn”, one of the small tapestries, which uses the technique of wedge weaving.

Photo courtesy of Nancy McRay

“Burning” by McRay.

“It’s still tapestry, but instead of a horizontal weft on a vertical warp, the weft is woven on the bias. This gives the tapestry dynamic movement. Also, with the piece, I used non-traditional materials, such as nettle and other stiff, stringy materials. I title a lot of my pieces once they’re done, once they tell me what they are. call it “Burn” because it reminds me of the stumps left behind after a forest fire.”

Having previously exhibited at the gallery over the years, McRay is proud to be part of the reopening.

“The Lansing Art Gallery has a long history of showing the best Michigan artists have to offer,” she said. “I love it for the opportunities it offers our fabulous artists and for the diversity of works it presents. Although the gallery features popular artists, it does not shy away from showing more thought-provoking and thought-provoking works as well.

The pandemic has provided the gallery with opportunities to expand public art engagement.

After the pandemic forced a halt to studio events, Whitney said the gallery rethought how it could bring public art and classes/workshops in a safer way. Online videos and teaching materials led to success “Sock Creature” art kits, which promote access to art. The kits are available online or on stock exchange, depending on the need.

This type of kit helps encourage people of all ages to revisit their own creativity and eliminate any pretense of a stuffy art gallery experience.

“Our director of education, Michelle Carlson, spearheaded the project. When she shared it with me, I said “it’s awesome, it’s a great way for people to know the arts are for them,” Whitney said. “It’s the perception that I think we often fight against is that galleries are elitist. We truly believe that the arts are for everyone.

The gallery, which will host its ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, February 1 at 12:30 p.m., marks the gallery’s fifth location in decades, according to Whitney. The gallery reopens to the public with extended hours from Wednesday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.


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