The city of Clare is in many ways a typical small town.
Some big ideas have taken root, especially when it comes to the arts.
Creations by professionals and amateurs can be found in an open space, with hardwood floors and canvas-like white walls.
Kim Kleinhardt is the owner of this space — the 515 (five-fifteen) Gallery.
She says she has received lots of love and support as the project has blossomed from an idea to a creation that is still taking shape.
“I hope to think it at least lit the spark to recognize how important the arts are in a community and how important it is for a community to support the artists within a community. That’s one thing I have to give credit to the community of Clare for is that when we have openings everybody comes out and truly supports the crazy new ideas we come up with.”
Kleinhardt retired from teaching art at Clare High School last year.
When she started the gallery five years ago, she wanted a place to showcase student work.
“There has not been a gallery in Clare, but probably 10 years ago I started with my students when I was still teaching, I would go to some of the empty storefronts and I’d say hey can I have your storefront for like a month and we will run a gallery, so my students got that experience.”
Kleinhardt also taught a business management class and had students involved in the running of gallery. Now that she’s retired, she runs it herself. She said having students run the gallery helped them with lifelong skills. A handful of students stopped by to say hello while we were talking.
The trendy brick building can hold about 20 different art pieces during an exhibition. Exhibitions change about every month or so.
Judy Thurston is a watercolor artist. She also teaches watercolor painting at Central Michigan University. Right now, one of her still-life works is featured.
She says it’s great that Kleinhardt is showing all types of work.
“The gallery here and the work that Kim has done here as well as the work at the high school for years have made a tremendous impact on this community.”
Out the back door of the gallery is, you guessed it, more art.
It’s been dubbed the “art alley”.
The city of Clare is working with local artists who are creating paintings, mosaics, and sculptures, all along the alley’s brick walls. A couple different downtown businesses are also involved and will have art plastered on their outer walls.
Al Wildey, a Central Michigan University photography professor, is working on a piece for the art alley. He says it’s a great way for local artists to connect with the city.
“What they’re doing is trying to incorporate art into the community trying to use it as part of, trying to create Clare as being a point of destination, a place that people want to come and see. They’re really applying what we like to call creative capital and by doing that, they get the local people involved they get people that may not have any direct connection to making art and they’re contributing to an art piece.”
The 515 Gallery is slowly becoming a home to art everyone can appreciate.
And it is one of the stops that is putting Clare on the map.