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InsideOut Gallery Digs Into Art‘s Underground

Rick Coates - October 27th, 2005
It’s called “Pop Surrealism,” or “Underground Art,” and sometimes “Lowbrow or Outsider Art.” Call it what you like but InsideOut Gallery owner Mike Curths likes to simply call it art.
“I don’t claim to be an expert on art,” said Curths, “But I do know what I like and this art that is known as ‘underground’ speaks to me.”
Curths and his wife Kim opened InsideOut seven months ago. Located in downtown Traverse City on Garland (near the fish weir and the Visitors Center) the gallery will host an artist reception and masquerade/costume gathering Saturday October 29 from 7 pm to 11 pm. Since opening, InsideOut has hosted a series of artist receptions on the last Saturday of each month.
“I have expanded the theme for this reception in keeping with the Halloween weekend spirit,” said Curths. “We are encouraging people to come in costume and to be creative. We will serve refreshments and there will be live music.”
Voluntary contributions will be accepted for a scholarship fund that Curths and others are creating to help students interested in pursuing non-traditional art forms.

D.R. FOSTER
The featured artist will be D.R. Foster, an underground artist who lives in Traverse City. Curths has been exhibiting a few of Foster’s pieces since the gallery opened and is excited about having an expanded offering for the next month.
“D.R. is phenomenal; his home is literally a museum of his works. He is very private and doesn’t have his work in galleries so this is a real bonus for the gallery,” said Curths. “His work is really beyond description. I get so many comments on ‘The Welder.’ He spent six years creating this piece out of scraps he found.”
Curths spells out his philosophy on art right on his business card: “Art shouldn’t match
your sofa.”
“I really believe that. So much of what is being sold is ‘cookie-cutter,’ essentially mass-produced stuff,” said Curths. “When I buy a sofa I want something that is comfortable and looks good in my home. When I buy art I want something that inspires me, makes me think, makes me ask questions and not the question will it match my sofa.”
Word of Curths’ gallery has spread around the Midwest and it actually has become a
tourist draw.
“We are constantly hearing from people from places like Chicago that ‘this is really cool and we don’t have anything like this even in Chicago.’ It really blows me away when people come in from big cities and tell us our gallery is better than anything they have,” said Curths.

ARE WE READY?
Curths had been considering an underground art themed gallery for a while, but was hesitant because he didn’t think Traverse City was ready for it. He isn’t sure if the town is ready yet, but he has a vision for his little section of downtown, but first he has to get people familiar with his location.
“I am a member of the Downtown Traverse City Association and we have participated in the gallery walks and we have people coming to us and saying you are so far away from everything. I have to chuckle as I came from New York City and we would walk 50 blocks to get someplace,” said Curths. “I am a stone’s throw from Union Street, Front Street and West Bay. I see us as being the catalyst for what will be known as Traverse City’s funky little neighborhood.”
He also thinks that there are a lot of undiscovered jewels in town if people just get off the main roads and look around.
“I think we have it pretty good up here. There are all these great shops, artists and cool parks that often go undiscovered because people don’t walk down an alley or a path,” said Curths. “I am right next to the Boardman River and there is this great path with benches and seldom do I see people on it. I don’t think most people who live here know it even exists.”
He is currently expanding the size of his gallery as he says “one tip at a time,” to include more exhibition space and to host concerts and films.
“I work days at Trattoria Stella bartending and if the tips are good then I head to Lowe’s and buy another track light,” laughs Curths.

FILMS & MUSIC
As for a concert and film series Curths sees endless potential and points to the recent success of the Traverse City Film Festival as an indicator of the community’s interest in films.
“I am looking to develop an independent film series here,” said Curths. “I certainly am also planning to bring alternative type bands here as well. This will be a smoke-free environment and a great place for a concert, film and even a wedding reception.”
He is renting out his space for parties and banquets and recently hosted a wedding reception.
“If someone is looking for something different and creative for a reception and party this is definitely it,” said Curths. “We even have plenty of parking.”
Curths arrived in Northern Michigan eight years ago after living life in large metro communities working in the music industry. He started out as a performing musician and was even Chuck Berry’s drummer for a while in the early 1970s. In the mid-’70s his band Gaberial Star scratched the scene and led to national tours with Firefall and the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. By the end of the decade he tired of the road.
“I decided I wanted to settle down so I went to recording engineer school and after graduating made my way to California to work as an engineer,” said Curths. “Eventually I tired of the big city and decided I want to find my version of ‘Mayberry’ and so that is how I ended up here in Traverse City.”

FULL CIRCLE
For six years he ran Full Circle Studios with Jon Knight. When Knight moved south the two decided to close the studio. Curths decided it was time to pursue his dream of opening a gallery.
“The support has been great. I guess I have been most shocked by people who I thought wouldn’t be interested are actually interested,” said Curths. “We have people in their 60s and 70s coming in and buying pieces. We just came off of a very successful exhibition of Tara Hackett’s work. She has an international following.”
The gallery has a mix of works from local (about 30%) and nationally renowned artists. Outsider (Underground) Art is gaining in popularity in the art world. Born out of the 1960s rock posters, hot rod and underground comic culture, underground art is being recognized by art scholars and investors alike.

InsideOut Gallery is located on Garland (off of Hall Street near West Bay) and is currently open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, closed on Thursday’s, and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturdays. The Halloween Ball and D.R. Foster artist reception will take place Saturday October 29 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. For additional information call the gallery at (231) 929-3254.
 
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