Today, Sept. 15, marks the opening of ArtPrize and a new gallery’s first foray into the annual event. ArtRat is located at 46 S. Division Ave., on the east side of the street across from the popular dual eatery and sometimes jazz club Rockwell/Republic.
The gallery owners are husband and wife Matthew Rothenberg and artist Nancy Tobin, who moved back to Grand Rapids in 2016 from New York. Prior to that they had lived in San Francisco. Tobin had been painting, selling and exhibiting in both areas.
ArtRat started as a studio for Tobin and the couple decided it was too good of a space to leave closed up. They opened the storefront last year in summer of 2021 just before ArtPrize, but not in time to participate as an ArtPrize venue.
The gallery will host four ArtPrize artists, three of whom were found through the ArtPrize selection/matchmaking process.
“It’s a happy convergence. That’s why we decided to call the show, ‘Convergence.’ There’s a lot of variety on the walls,” said Rothenberg.
Tobin will share her piece, “High Water,” a commentary on the urgency of environmental change. The piece is a semi-abstract diptych, made from acrylic on two panels – an interpretation of “patterns of light through trees, a lattice of trees in very bright colors,” said Rothenberg.
“We’ve got Karen Kroul from MInneapolis, with ‘Shape of Memory,’ an assemblage of twelve large watercolor-on-paper paintings that come together into a grid. It kind of looks like they’re floating in front of the wall,” he said.
Other artists include Gray Reynolds, from the Ann Arbor area with, “Grace Notes: A Celebration of Marginalized Identities in Folk Music.” The piece contains QR codes with it so people can listen to music by the featured musicians. On Sept. 25, 5-6 p.m. there will be a concert by one of the musicians featured in Reynold’s art piece.
Lastly, a piece by artist Dean Hunt called, “evolutionARy,” rounds out the ArtRat ArtPrize exhibition. This augmented reality, immersive composition consists of 25 18-inch squares. Each is an homage to a different artist; Dali, Monet and Warhol to name a few. According to Rothenberg, Hunt is also a developer of a software called WisckAR, an augmented reality app that allows viewers to look into the history of the artists that inspired the piece.
In addition to serving as an ArtPrize venue, the couple have set out to make the studio-turned-gallery a cultural center.
“We have a Hip Hop poetry thing that’s already happening here,” said Rothenberg. “We’ll have two during ArtPrize,” he said, adding that he will perform an “acoustic punky thing” himself on Sunday, Sept. 18. Learn more about the gallery and its hip happenings during ArtPrize at the ArtRat website.