The art gallery is unique in Northern Michigan. It showcases original works while also offering a venue for dancers to meet and novices to learn. Paying tribute to the owners Italian heritage, it is named for the Medici, the powerful and influential Florentine family who were leaders during the Renaissance as patrons of the arts, architecture and philosophy.
Owner Cindy Carleton opened Gallerie Medici in early October in a stunning space in the 500 block of West Front Street in Traverse City. The completely refurbished building is tucked between Marys Kitchen Port and the Evergreen Gallery. Step inside the storefront and the first impression is of a striking yet warmly welcoming room. A vast wood floor sweeps through the space. Deeply hued red walls and high ceilings provide a dramatic backdrop to artwork created by a palette of local, regional and international artists. The room is open, punctuated by a skylight and flower filled table in the center, and a fireplace and cozy sitting area near the back. Music wafts through the air with a subtle fluidity.
The effect is peaceful yet mesmerizing. Its a room with possibilities. The art, music and ambiance embrace all who enter. The lone gallery visitor is at home, while a large group of friends arent crowded. Strangers are comfortable. Dancers can gather. The seeds of community grow.
Carleton is pleased with the results and the response. She had seen a similar concept combining social dance and art at the Lake Street Gallery in Chicago, and sought to pattern Gallerie Medici similarly. During the day, the gallery is open but then transforms itself several evenings each week.
An accomplished dancer herself, Carleton teaches Argentine tango lessons each Monday evening. There is no set series. Participants pay each evening they attend at $10 per lesson, and then have the chance to practice their skills on Thursday evenings during free dance sessions. Skill levels range from the very beginner to more advanced. Age is irrelevant. Partners are welcome but certainly not required.
Ive never had a partner, Carleton said. It never stopped me from dancing or anyone from asking me to dance.
Carleton began ballroom dancing five years ago as a young widow living in Wisconsin. Dancing offered recreation and exercise, then introduced her to the Argentine tango. Since then, Carletons love and expertise in the tango have taken her around the world as a dancer, teacher and student.
Dance has enriched my life, she said. The world is much smaller now I have met friends all over the world through dance.
She hopes to share the joy that she enjoys in this art form with others through her classes, collaborations and workshops.
SALSA & FLAMENCO
While there will be a focus on the Latin dances, the tango will be complemented by salsa, flamenco and others as opportunity and interest arise. Carleton hopes to hold a workshop with guest instructors each month. A weekend Argentine tango workshop was held in early December while Tina Benayas will introduce the basics of Spanish Flamenco on December 17 and 18. She also plans to partner with local ethnic communities to raise awareness and celebrate other traditions. Also on the horizon are gatherings with musicians, songwriters and poets.
The gallery and its dance sessions have already begun attracting a loyal, friendly following, which Carleton hopes will continue to grow. Building community is an underlying theme at Gallerie Medici and hearkens back to the traditional milongas in Buenos Aires, where families,
friends and community would gather on a Sunday afternoon or Friday evening to dance and socialize for the love of the dance and the people.
Dance is in our souls, Carleton said. There is a gorgeousness of emotion a language that we share that is the essence of dance.
Gallerie Medici is located at 535 West Front Street in Traverse City. Gallery hours are 11 am 6 pm, Tuesday through Saturday and Noon 4 pm on Sundays. Dance sessions are held Monday and Thursday evenings at 7 pm and as scheduled. For more information, call (231) 995-3633.