Heartside Gallery and Studio exhibits 20 years of work in book


Heartside Gallery and Studio's book, "An Irregular Heartbeat," features neighborhood artists. Photo by Mike Cook

Heartside Gallery and Studio is celebrating 20 years in the Heartside neighborhood with a special anniversary book, chronicling its history and the artists who have come through its doors.

A crowdfunded book

The publication of “An Irregular Heartbeat: The Artists and History of Heartside Gallery and Studio” is being funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

With a goal of $6,000, the campaign closed recently, having raised $6,695 from 113 backers.

The gallery hopes the book will be out by August and expects to organize an event at that time to celebrate its publication.

The hardcover book will be professionally printed and bound in the United States and will have 100 color pages.  

Contact Heartside Gallery about purchasing copies of the book at its website.

"Really good" artwork

“Nine times out of 10, when people walk through the door, you can watch their faces. If they come in to actually buy artwork or see what it’s about, people walk in and their face completely changes, and they say, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize the artwork was really good here,’” said Sarah Scott, arts coordinator for the Heartside Gallery and Studio.

For that reason, Scott felt that it was time to show off the talent and the stories of some of the artists that the gallery has helped through art — and to celebrate the gallery’s place and longevity within the Grand Rapids arts community.

“One guy is a laid off iron worker, and he has some physical and mental health issues, and he had substance abuse. And he said, ‘You know, I walked in here while I was looking for a place to live and staying at the shelter, and I didn’t think of myself as an artist. I was just killing time, kind of bored.’ And he found out that he is a phenomenal painter,” Scott said.

“He had some time and some creative freedom, and he found that he had that tremendous talent, and he’s actually selling artwork now," she said. "He was able to have more hope in himself and believe in himself, because he had a skill that he didn’t know that he had. And from there, was less depressed, got himself an apartment, medical treatment, all of that stuff. We hear stories like that all the time from folks who come in to make something.”

20 years of hope

The Heartside Gallery and Studio has been fulfilling an important need for many in the Heartside community since its founding in 1993.

Scott said at the onset, the organization was literally a shoebox of art supplies and a basement space in the Heartside Ministry building.

It later was able to move into the space next door, expanding the studio to include a gallery where the artwork could be displayed and purchased.

“I think it’s tremendously beneficial to Heartside neighbors, folks who are currently homeless or who have found stable housing and are either in the area or moved on to apartments that are somewhat nearby,” Scott said. “We hear all the time, ‘This really helped me to stay focused, to get on my feet,’ or gave them something to believe in.”

Heartside Gallery artists come from varying backgrounds, including those who are or were once homeless, as well as those with mental and physical health issues.

The gallery has become an important space for those who have begun to have other needs met — food, shelter, social services — and are looking for an outlet to express themselves.

Every sale matters

The space also gives some the opportunity to earn a small amount of money for their work.

“In the last three years, our sales have close to doubled,” Scott said. “I think part of that is more awareness in the community, more publicity and then really simple things like a Facebook page and adding an iPad and a Square Card reader.”

Scott said that last year, the gallery took in $13,000.

She said that amount might not seem like a lot, but the gallery serves as the only source of income for many of its artists.

Scott said $25 can make a big difference to its artists and can be an important part of their financial stability for the month.

“Selling artwork might be the only form of income that they have to pay their rent or buy food or other basic necessities,” she said.

More than 50 individuals utilize the gallery each month to creatively express themselves and share their experiences through art.

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