From the Grand Rapids Magazine July 2018 issue. Available on newsstands now or via subscription.
Upon entering the Light Gallery + Studio, visitors are greeted by a homey ambiance accomplished through intentionally displayed art, an assortment of plants and a fluffy white cat.
“We wanted to break down the notion of art galleries being unapproachable, expensive and sterile,” said co-founders Matthew Provoast and Erika Townsley, building on each other’s thoughts as they spoke. “We want our gallery to feel really homey, so customers can picture the art in their own home.”
After studying art and photography at Kendall College of Art and Design, Provoast and Townsley, known as the “couple from Kendall,” settled into the live-work space at 317 S. Division Ave., where they opened Light Gallery and moved into the attached apartment. Elton, their gallery cat, greets streetwalkers from his perch in the window and contributes to the domiciliary atmosphere.
Light Gallery operates on a three-tiered business strategy, offering a gallery for local artistry, retail that supports the local economy, and workshops that promote art education and foster a community for creative minds.
The gallery itself hosts a variety of artworks, from pottery and handmade goods to fine art and prints — all crafted by Grand Rapids-area artists. Currently, there are nearly 60 local artists with art on display at Light Gallery, including Michael Pfleghaar and Jeff Condon.
Not only is all of the art local, it’s also affordable.
“We know what it’s like being young, mid-20s artists,” Provoast said. “Expensive artwork is not very attainable, and creative people are conscious of where they spend their money.”
For this reason, everything is reasonably priced, and artists still receive majority compensation — even if that means little gain for the shop.
“We pay out 60 percent of sales to the artist, who is local (and) most of our artists use local print shops and source their supplies locally, so it’s a really healthy business model,” Provoast said, as Townsley added, “because it goes right back into our community.”
Additionally, Light Gallery offers three to four educational workshops per week, all instructed by local artists and open to amateurs and experts alike. “We take things that seem difficult, like tapestry weaving or indigo dyeing, and teach people who have never done it before. Everyone’s on the same level, and everyone ends up with something to take home and a skill they can replicate on their own,” Townsley said.
“Teaching workshops closes the gap between artists and community,” Provoast added. “Exploring a curiosity, learning a new skill and experimenting with new materials are best done in a beautiful space with friendly, creative people.”
Recently, Provoast and Townsley saw a need in the community for children’s art education, as Provoast noted it’s not a given that kids are learning art and creativity in school these days. So, the duo is in the process of planning kid’s art programs to be held at the gallery.
“Our mission is to make art approachable for everyone,” Provoast said.
More information about Light Gallery + Studio, including its workshop schedule, is available at Light Gallery.
*Photos by Michael Buck