WSG's New Home
The gallery finds a building with a history.
From the October, 2021 issue
WSG Gallery has a nomadic history. The initials originally stood for Washington St. Gallery, the street where the artists' collective opened in 1999.
In 2003, they moved to Liberty; then, in 2008, to S. Main. The artists stayed there until 2020, when they could no longer afford the space during the pandemic shutdown (Observer, June 2020).
After a brief period selling only online, WSG's artists found a temporary home in the UPSTAIRS gallery at the Ann Arbor Art Center. In June, they secured a new long-term location on E. Ann St. It's in the row of nineteenth-century brick storefronts that was once the heart of Ann Arbor's black business district.
As Steven Moore recalled in a 2006 Observer article, "For most of the twentieth century, the block was a repository for the hopes of the city's growing black population," with barber and beauty shops, pool halls, and restaurants. But with the passage of open-housing laws in the 1960s, their customers began to scatter across the city, and drug-fueled violence scared away most of those who remained (barber Johnnie Rush said he moved to Broadway because "my own family was scared to patronize my shop").
The Bilakos family, which had owned the buildings since the 1930s, renovated the commercial spaces and upstairs apartments for new generations of downtown residents and businesses. The gallery was most recently Angelini & Associates Architects. To many older black Ann Arborites, though, it's remembered as Clint's Club, and WSG will have a display recalling that history.
The artists spent the summer painting walls, ripping out old carpet, deep cleaning, and installing laminate floors, then reopened in mid-September. "This is a smaller space, actually very lovely, and we feel it is a charming location," emails Barbara Brown, one of WSG's artists.
WSG currently has fourteen members, whose specialties include abstract, figurative, landscape, and watercolor paintings; ceramic, cast bronze, and assemblage sculptures; paper arts; books; fiber; jewelry; art glass; drawings; photography; and printmaking. Its premiere
show in the new space, appropriately, is titled "New Beginnings."
Along with gallery displays, each of the artists sells via the WSG website, where pictures and prices for individual works can be found. September's online show, "All My Tomorrows," wraps up at the end of the month, but the gallery plans in person shows for October, November, and December.
Details will be listed on its website, where visitors also can find photos from the shows that took place earlier this year as well as other works by the member artists.
Although a visit to WSG has often been a favorite pastime for downtown strollers, Brown cautions that the pandemic means some changes.
"We will require masks for visitors who want to come into the gallery for viewing/shopping-and just stopping by to chat-and we will also limit the number of people in the gallery at one time," she writes. "COVID sure has changed things, hasn't it!"
WSG Gallery, 111 E. Ann, (734) 929-2621. Wed. & Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thurs., Fri., & Sun. noon-5 p.m. Closed Mon. & Tues. wsg-art.com
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