Studio 23 / The Arts Center originated as a grassroots arts organization created by volunteers who were dedicated to bringing the arts to the Great Lakes Bay Area.
In 1959, the studio was established as a non-profit 501 (3) c and retains that status to this day.
Studio 23 choose their name because of their first location. Weiland Furniture store opened up their arms to a group of artists who wanted to exhibit artwork. This location was on US 23. Some other stories of Studio 23’s name came from the idea that we had 23 founding members. From records we have 24 recorded names that helped bring Studio 23 to life.
To this date, we have to thank these 24 names who had a vision for Studio 23. Countless volunteers, artists, members, donors, sponsors and now staff keep our mission alive.
As we are coming up on our 60th anniversary in 2019, we celebrate our story. Throughout the years we have changed our logo, location but kept our mission the same, to support the region with a visual art center and host art educational events.
Support from the community was strong when we began. We have traveled from home to home (five total) and also have been homeless during our history. The Weilands’ Furniture store was our first home. We stayed there for about 3 years until moving to the Little Red Schoolhouse on Knight Rd. Tireless amounts of effort went into this space from our volunteers. They cleaned, repaired and painted the schoolhouse to get it ready for their opening debut. At this time the Studio held 6 exhibits a year and programming for adults and children. Quoted from Pat Serresque, an original founder “The building had been closed for ages, We had to redo the interior. We had a furnace that was a miracle it kept going. The hardwood floors all buckled up and looked like waves in the ocean. We had to get the heat going and get the floor back to where it was. That was home for quite awhile.”
At the Little Red School house we closed the space during the winter months due to lack of heating and even in the spring if the parking lot was too muddy. 20 years later, The Little Red Schoolhouse had deteriorated beyond repair and the furnace failed, causing Studio 23 to begin the search for the third home. Thomas Jefferson School became our home on Park Avenue.
After the school we moved into our fourth location at City Hall. In 1989, City Manager David Barnes invited us to use three rooms on the fourth floor of City Hall.
With this new location we had to follow some new rules. Like no holes in the wall, but we managed to keep our spot for seven years. A successful picture hanging system was put in place, updated some lighting and updated hours of operation. Bay Arts Council assisted us with the set up of a phone line and provided a membership list. At this time we were holding ten exhibits a year, with our All Area show, students art exhibits and other artists. At this location we didn’t have enough space to host educational classes or special events.
In 1995 Studio 23 became homeless again.
Luck struck in 1997 when the Rowleys came to the current board with an idea. The Jennison Hardware building was being updated into condos and the first floor was available. Our president at the time, Charlie Schwartz met with the Rowleys to discuss a deal. Needing a down payment on the space, Paul asked Charlie how much the Studio could afford. Being a public school teacher, Charlie stated that he had $20 in his pocket and luckily that was enough for Paul and our plans began.
The largest fundraiser campaign of our history took place. Our goal was to raise $500,000 for our permanent home. Along with raising funds to complete the brick & mortar space, we also raised funds for an endowment fund through the Bay Area Community Foundation. Community supporters were incredibly generous and allowed up to open shop pretty quickly.
Since we have been in the Jennison building we were able to get back to our mission of educational classes and exhibits.
It is the mission of Studio 23 / The Arts Center to provide the Great Lakes Bay Area with a visual arts center and embrace creative educational activities involving the community. The gallery is dedicated to making the arts relevant and accessible to all
To work towards this mission we offer programming for all ages, exhibit artists from all over Michigan and work towards making our community a better place. Now at Studio 23 we offer 7 – 8 exhibits a year. Our gallery changes every 4 – 8 weeks, by moving walls, paintings walls, and changing the lighting. Each time a visitor walks into the gallery, we want them to have a new experience.
Our current board of directors consists of hardworking, community-minded, and talented individuals. We currently have a mix of business people, CPAs, artists, and community volunteers.