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A Community of Artists coming together in Calumet that has the potential of creating a powerful impact on the Copper Country. In other areas of the country, whenever a group of artists decide to band together the influence on the community has been deep.
The Vertin building in downtown Calumet will be celebrating its 120 year birthday this year. Always considered to be the center of Calumet and influential by its size and position in the community, Calumet felt its lose when it finally shut its doors in 1986. Thanks to Tim Lyons, the building has been renovated, and a new vision has emerged.
Last June, Ed Grey, a renowned artist with ties to the local area, made a decision to return to the local area after being shown the Vertin building. He made a decision to rent studio space on the 2nd floor and shared a vision of turning the 1st floor into a gallery. Shortly after Ed Grey rented space for his studio, Abbey Green, a stained glass artist rented studio space on the same floor. Presently Abbey and Ed’s studios exist side by side, experiencing a synergy from each other’s creativity.
|Ed Grey's Studio||Abbey Green's Studio||Abbey's Green's Studio|
In December 2004, the first open house showcased the two studios stimulating much interest and thereafter other artists were drawn to the vision. In mid March the Vertin Gallery opened its doors to the public with a vast array of studio artists’ works and consignment pieces from others.
Today, besides Ed Grey and Abbey Green, Frank Dyl rents studio space and creates jewelry as a silversmith. David Wallo, long-time local business owner of Copper Art and now in retirement, returned to his favorite hobby of black and white photography and has a dark room on the first floor. Dave said that he missed being with the public and saw this as a wonderful opportunity to take part in the gallery and to pursue his photography hobby with new zeal. Poet T. Kilgore Splake, who is both writer and photographer, occupies studio space on the 3rd floor and started the Vertin Press with Cliff’s Soundings and has already published 2 other volumes of poetry, with idea after idea piling up waiting for further publication. Ed Grey stated that he desires to have a series of artist’s book published.
Artis Books is stocking the 1st floor gallery with hundreds of top quality artist books that will be of particular interest to many different artists and craftspeople.
Tom Blessing, another poet, has moved into the building and has had some of his poetry published. Jack Oyler, a painter, has rented studio space and so has Susan Thoreau from Ontonagon, another painter in oils. Ed Grey stated on the day that we visited that 2 other are ready to move in and when the 3rd floor is filled they will be filling up the 4th floor.
Unique to the Vertin Gallery each month a new artist/poet/sculptor will be featured who will either be giving readings throughout the month, displaying their art or creating a work in progress as April’s featured artist Phyllis Fredendall, an instructor at the Finlandia University International School of Art and Design, who plans on doing “Stories and Place, a Celebration” in which she will invite her sculpture students to “engage the space” with her. Visitors to the building through the month will see the gallery and atrium change shape as the installation evolves. She invites visitors through the month to share their stories and envisions a way to “weave” them into the piece.
The Vertin Gallery is again a dynamic center of vital activity in the Calumet community and will be extending its influence throughout the Copper Country. A large part of the artists’ vision is to engage the local community. Ed Grey is the driving force behind the community concept. While each artisan maintains his/her individuality, they collectively have drawn up certain working boundaries to maintain a positive working atmosphere. Collectively, they make decisions about the type of artist renting space within the building so that all art flows together in an attitude of cooperation.
The Copper Country welcomes such a vision to the area and wishes them great success. Thanks to each person!