By Kristi Kates
Its been five years in April since Mike Curths hung a shingle, as
he simply puts it, and began what is now one of Traverse Citys
must-see, most eclectic art galleries.
Fans of the venue were dismayed when the InsideOut closed its doors in
January to undergo a major renovation throughout the spring and
summer. But now the gallery is back on track with an expansive new
exhibition area and improved concert facility.
Curths says the InsideOut was started without a business plan or a lot
of money - but with plenty of verve for what he saw as art that was
both underrated and underexposed in the Northern Michigan area.
I did not have a business plan, Curths confirms, still do not on
paper. Ive never known why a bank or the money industry wants to know
what your projections are in two or three or five years. Hell, I dont
know what my projections are for tomorrow, he laughs, if anyone
thinks they do, call me.
The gallery started as a short-term project, spurred by both his love
of art and a personal struggle of his own, one that for some, would
take them out of the running - but for Curths, it simply made him run
I was searching for a business I could do on my own, he remembers.
It also had to be something I loved and was passionate about.
Something that did not require a lot of startup money. I was diagnosed
with a serious case of cancer a short time before, so at that point I
felt pretty mortal; I needed something besides my illness to kick me
in the ass.
Looking back now, Im surprised people from this area kept walking
through the door. We made it with the folks who collected original
art; people who were traveled, people who looked at the world a little
bit differently, a little bigger - people who didnt match their art
to their sofa.
Curths, who some may remember as John Knights engineer and right-hand
man at the Full Circle recording studio in Traverse City back in the
early 90s, was in part inspired by a family member, and by the pop
culture that surrounded him growing up.
I was born in mid-century, and grew up in an incredible time, Curths
says, times that changed the world, times that changed everything. I
gravitated to music, art, and politics at an early age. Mad Magazine,
The Beatles, Famous Monsters of Filmland, building models of the Rat
Fink, all blew my mind - well, maybe it was the Testors glue.
I hung out with my cousin Tom for most of those years, Curths
continues. He was more like a brother, and he also became a pretty
serious sought-after outsider artist. His stuff piqued my interest
in the lowbrow/pop surrealism side of art. So, after Full Circle
closed down, I contacted Tom, who basically set me up in the art
business. I still show his work, and consider him a great artist, a
FOCUS ON ART
Art is definitely the focus of InsideOut Gallery, although Curths and
crew have also expanded the gallery to include film and music
presentations, music being one of Curths favorite elements of the
If I had to pick a favorite event, it might be actually having a
musical hero play in my living room, so to speak, he says.
But InsideOut, he insists, will always return to art.
Art will always be the ace card, Curths says, visual art is such a
magnificent thing. Everybody sees it differently, which is
fascinating. I think this region is slowly discovering a genre of art
they knew nothing about. Second, are music and film. The gallery took
on a life of its own in size, so naturally I added music; my only
degrees are in record engineering and the music business, so I added
what I knew. To date, we have had over a hundred touring music acts,
mostly stuff I personally love, so it was great to experience that
other people loved it too and actually showed up.
Currently, InsideOut Gallery also shows movies each week, another
genre of art that Curths works to present in a distinctive fashion.
Our 25-foot screen makes it feel like a real theatre, he says,
There is something about sitting in a big, dark room and being taken
away by moving visuals.
Other upcoming events at the InsideOut include Detroit urban
landscape painter Tony Roko, Sept. 17; a Makers Market craft bazaar on
Sept. 18; and the Nervous But Excited folk duo on Sept. 24.
FUTURE ON CALL
The future of InsideOut Gallery looks bright, according to Curths, who
has remodeled and expanded the gallery to over 8,000 square feet.
It will always change and grow - on a budget, he says wryly, mostly
because we dont have any money, and also because I really love using
interesting materials for a use that they were not intended for.
Besides, lots of money makes a place look like Applebees.
Inside Out doesnt have to fear becoming an Applebees copy, thats
for sure - uniformity is one thing that Curths avoids, and, as a
matter of fact, thinks that Northern Michigans art world could better
strive to grow past.
This area has always touted itself as a great art mecca, he says.
Nah. I dont think so. The art community needs to stop letting the
Chamber of Commerce dictate what it thinks is art. There are a couple
of really good, serious art galleries here - the rest falls under
Arts and Crap. Most of the art and music we bring in now is not so
local; we still display some local art, but it is almost impossible to
find our genre in this region, with the very notable exception of D.R.
Curths has a message for you local folks claiming to be artists,
too: Its time to start thinking, he says.
Thats another thing that keeps me scratching my head - where are all
the hipsters? The scenesters? The creative class dont seem to get it
here. Get out of the lame bar scene, put down the bong, give up the
Jager shots, and spend some time hanging out in cool spaces created
specifically for you!
Mike Curths InsideOut Gallery is located on Garland Street in
downtown Traverse City, telephone 231-929-3254.