Ann Arbor is rich with artists and craftsmen but poor in places for them to sell their work. Now a group of artists are taking sales into their own hands with a pop-up gallery on E. Liberty.

“My vision is to create a gallery/salon environment in the tradition of Parisian salons.” says Jim Moran, one of the organizers of Catch-Us-While-You-Can/A Makeshift Gallery (see Galleries, p. 64). “Artists will be selling their work, but they will also be demonstrating their process and sharing their artistic philosophy. Informal live music will happen regularly.”

The idea has been percolating with Moran and his wife, Cheryl Dawdy, for years. Ann Arborites of a certain age will remember Dawdy as one-third of the Chenille Sisters, a beloved close-harmony singing group. Even during her performing years, Dawdy (U-M BFA, 1980) kept making collages. Margo West, a local potter with a national reputation, was in on the brainstorming.

In 2021, Moran, Dawdy, West, and about twenty artists took up shop in the old Peaceable Kingdom space on Main St. for six weeks leading up to Christmas. The experiment’s success encouraged them to scout a new location for 2022. In October, they found a vacant storefront at 407 E. Liberty with good foot traffic and lots of natural light flooding in from the south-facing front windows.

Acquiring the necessary permits took much longer than expected. “We didn’t fully open until December 9th, so we missed important holiday shopping days,” says Dawdy. Still, with about twenty-five artists displaying their work, December sales were good, and the store broke even.

In January, Moran was seeking alternative sources of funding to carry the store through the first half of the year. The building’s owner has been supportive.

“Jim has a vision,” says Mark Lipshaw, director of property management for Hillside Realty Investments, “and we’re willing to help.”

The situation is fluid, but, Dawdy says with a smile, “Jim never backs down from a challenge.” He helped launch Detroit’s Attic Theatre and Ann Arbor’s Performance Network, each time raising money and merging the interests of the performing arts with the visual arts. “They’re more complementary than most people think,” he says. n