By Kristi Kates 9/7/09
Located in one of the few industrial-warehouse looking buildings in quaint Harbor Springs, the Kuhlhaus Gallery draws plenty of attention, even as the business is adjusting to its new and enthusiastic owners.
Helen and Timothy Coon are the ambitious couple who took over the space from the previous owner, Jen Buday, who reluctantly decided that she didnt have the time any more to properly run the business. The Coons had just returned from a long visit to Australia (Helen is an Australian-American), and spotted Budays Business For Sale sign on the gallerys door just at the right time.
We saw the sign because I have been in love with this space for at least two decades, Tim Coon explains, and so i regularly drove down Third Street just to check it out.
COLLECTORS OF ART
The Coons have been collecting art for at least the past 40 years, visiting galleries and museums in many parts of the world, and studying art informally throughout their lives.
Since I retired from Ford, I often dreamed of opening some sort of a gallery, Coon says. This dream was derailed a bit when Helen and I decided to open Charlys restaurant in Charlevoix in 1997 as our first post-retirement venture - I met Helen initially as a customer in her great little restaurant, the Toorak Raj, in Melbourne, Australia, 20 years ago. Charlys was a lot of fun for me, because Helen did such a great job in the kitchen that I, helping in the front, heard nothing but compliments from all the customers. In the end, however, in order to maintain her standards, it was too much work for Helen, so we were happy to turn that business over a year ago to the fine folks at what is now called the Edgewater Bistro.
The Coons business savvy came in handy once they saw that the Kuhlhaus space was available.
Everyone who sees Kuhlhaus, especially architects, agree that the space in which the gallery is located is an extremely cool space, Coon explains. Hence the name. The building is quite old and charming, it has a number of wonderful, large, industrial-type windows, each one with 60 to 90 individual panes of glass. There are also several huge skylights, wood ceilings, and dark concrete floors; the exterior walls are old bricks and what looks like cinder blocks.
Coon says that former use of the space included an antiques warehouse, boat storage, Packard car dealership, and automotive repair (you can still see remnants of the parking lines for the repair bays, he says).
But these days, its all about the art.
AUSSIE ART AND MORE
The Coons inherited an already-established pool of 19 local artists from Jen Buday, including local favorite Glenn Wolff. Other national artists, from Taos, New Mexico artist Jim Wagner to the likes of Stephen Goodfellow, Sybil Gibson, Rhett Lynch, and Alex Gonzalez, are also represented at Kuhlhaus.
To this North American/Southwestern roster, theyve added plenty of works from Helen Coons homeland.
We are also featuring what I believe surely is the finest gallery display of Australian Aboriginal art in the entire state, Coon says, ranging from bark and canvas paintings to carvings, boomerangs, shields, clubs, spears, and didgeridoos. The artists represented include Sam Tjampitjin, Hansen Boxer, George Milpurrurru, Trevor Nickolls, Cyril James Kerinauia, and many others.
Paintings, photography, sculpture, ceramics and pottery, jewelry, and textiles are all represented at Kuhlhaus; Coon also says that they are striving to include a broad enough range of prices that virtually everyone can afford something - and theyve got the room to showcase all of it.
Fortunately, for the many art lovers out there, we have the wide open spaces to offer a tremendous diversity and selection of art, Coon explains, where most galleries may be constrained by space, we are able to display as many as 40 or 50 works by any one artist.
GREAT LOCAL ART SCENE
The Coons enthusiasm has been bolstered by their explorations around other galleries in Harbor Springs.
Our initial reaction to the Harbor Springs art scene is that we have seen some great art that we would be very happy to own in many of the local galleries, Coon says, in fact, I calculated recently that we have, in this area, more galleries, relative to population, than Santa Fe, New Mexico, which usually is thought of as the second art capital of the country after New York City. Kuhlhaus certainly intends to do its part to enhance and broaden the diversity of Harbor Springs artistic offerings in every way that we can - we will be working diligently, year round, to find locally and/or to bring to Harbor Springs the best artists we can find.
Kuhlhaus only limitation to date is the fact that the vintage building has no heat - but the Coons plan to hang in there through mid-October, and will decide their fall hours based on the weather and the level of available customers. Theyve got plenty of other plans for Kuhlhaus future, too.
Looking ahead, I think few would dispute that we are fortunate to occupy, so far as Im aware, the greatest space for a gallery in Northern Michigan, Coon says. But our goal is to have visitors to the gallery recognize that the space is the second best feature of the gallery - the first being the excellence and diversity of artistic expression on display itself. And more than anything else, we should like to try to contribute in some major way to our artists ability to support their artistic endeavors. Any truly outstanding artist, most especially in sculpture and pottery, who happens to read this and is interested in a possible association with Kuhlhaus is encouraged to contact us.
Kuhlhaus is located at 294 East Third Street in downtown Harbor Springs (one block north of Main Street), telephone
231-526-4204. They may also be visited on the web at kuhlhausart.com. Call ahead for current hours.