Art House plans to thrive through grants, donations
Posted on 09/24/2020
Art House Director Erin Maten (left) stands outside with Ryan Kaltenbach, creative director, and Chrissy Serra, who manages the Art House store. Photo by Liz Cezat.The Northville Art House is evolving despite the pandemic – having recently become a nonprofit organization with autonomy from the City of Northville, which, over the past 15 years, has promoted its development. During that time, the Art House has been managing operations independently and paying the City for essential services, such as accounting and maintenance.

As a newly minted 501-c3, the Art House team can raise funds more readily and seek grants for programming and capital improvements to the building. In addition, outside funding can help with staffing costs during free gallery exhibits and community events, provide PPE support, and cover materials and instruction for art enrichment outreach programs.

The staff is small but mighty. Erin Maten is the executive director and currently handles events, Ryan Kaltenbach is the creative director, and Chrissy Serra manages the gift shop. Board member Sue Taylor is the public face of the board and a community advocate for the arts.

Erin Maten noted, “We’re operating with a streamlined business model: accounts payable, payroll, and expenses are now conducted by myself and overseen by the board. “We appreciate having the City close by for advice on financial matters and assisting with connections.”

The board, initially under the wing of the City’s boards and commissions, now has its own structure although most board members have stayed on, including Ellen Bennett, Nancy Darga, Roland Hwang, Linda Liedel, Elizabeth Oliver and Sue Taylor. Council Member Barbara Moroski-Browne continues to attend meetings.

The Art House is looking for additional board members who have the knowledge, resources and connections to grow and sustain the Art House, and are expanding their search to art advocates throughout the metro Detroit area.

One of the treasures of the Art House are the artists who showcase their work and in return become part of a community art hub. Typically, nine to 10 free exhibits are held each year at the Art House, which feature the work of local, national and international artists. More than 10,000 people are drawn to Northville annually from throughout Michigan and other states for Art House exhibits and events.

On Aug. 1, the Art House reopened with the Dreams and Nightmares exhibit, followed by the West of Center Exhibit. In mid-summer the Art House was instrumental in landing four reproductions for the “Inside Out” program, positioned outdoors within a two-block radius.

In September, the Art House held its Young Artist Market with nine local artists, ages 8-14, selling original art in the lower level classroom.

“Events likes these are wonderful to have for the mental health of our youth, especially during COVID-19. Other high school kids got involved by volunteering to help manage the market,” Maten said.

Parent Brianne Radke said, "We are so glad that the Art House curated such a thoughtful and spirit-boosting experience. The Young Artist Market became more than just a venue for my daughter Eva to share her art with her community - it was an opportunity for her to safely make tangible connections with friends who’ve been primarily engaging through screens. In a time of extended physical distance and navigating public health precautions, this event was exactly what our family needed."

Since COVID-19 struck, the Art House has established an online store. Now patrons can view and purchase art online and pick up their purchases through a no-contract method. View it here.

When the pandemic struck, the arts programming was blossoming – with record numbers registering for in-house classes, school instruction and community outreach. After the March shutdown, the Art House began to hold virtual classes for adults and students but the attendance wasn’t nearly as high as in-person classes.

“This would have been our best year yet,” Maten said. “We were in four Northville Elementary Schools with our outreach after-school art program, and also offered enrichment art classes at Goddard Preschool and Hillside Middle School. We continue to work on how to support our schools through virtual art enrichment.”

Kids as young as three can get a taste for art through the early art education program. The Art House collaborates on several student exhibits for middle school and high school art students. More recently, they have provided art classes to people with Parkinson’s disease and other illnesses – making a big difference in their lives.

The building itself is unique and well-loved. It’s clad in brick and aluminum-siding with a tall pillared porch. The tri-level building is tucked into a lovely parcel of land behind the Northville District Library, and well-spaced between the Northville Post Office and Oakwood Cemetery with the City Dog Park in its backyard.

A cozy, eclectic gift shop is located off the main entrance. An exhibition gallery on the second floor is professionally lit and an ideal space for showcasing a variety of artwork. Classes are held in the spacious lower level, which has a walk-out door to the backyard and parking lot. The building has beautiful gardens and outdoor installations, including two orange silhouette men, designed by local artist John Soave.

While the City is providing the building rent-free for the next five years, the nonprofit is responsible for maintenance. Volunteers tend to fix things around the Art House, which was built in 1965, but additional help is needed.

The Art House has been self-sustaining through program costs and fundraising events but anticipated contributions from individual donations and prospective grants will allow it to flourish. Their new nonprofit model is expected to open more doors with the assistance of grantors and donors, who now may gain a tax deduction from their contribution.

“In the past we’ve raised funds with more than 200 members who contributed yearly,” Maten said. “Since COVID-19, our membership has dropped to 40 members. Our events such as Arts & Acts, Painting with Paws, Young Artists Art Market and Art Crush are annual fundraisers that bring in half of our revenue each year. All of these events have been hit hard by the virus. If things go well, we hope to have these activities back next year.”

“Our budget has taken a large decrease in classes, art sales, events, sponsors and donations,” Maten noted. “It’s really vital that we make up for lost revenue through fundraising, now and in the next couple years.”

The Art House is a jewel in the City’s cultural offerings. “We have made Northville a more desirable, interesting, exciting place to live because of the cultural opportunities and activities that the Art House provides,” Maten said.

Read about the exhibits, programs, Gift Shop on their website. To make a donation, visit this link.

Teacher instructs art students outdoors.

Photo: Art instructor Julie Woodward teaches students outside the Art House. Photo provided by Northville Art House.