Skip to content

“collectors at heART”

"collectors at heART" ExhibitHANCOCK, MI – The exhibit, “collectors at heART” is featured at the Finlandia University Gallery, located in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock, from August 8 to September 13, 2012.

A closing reception for the collectors will take place at the gallery on Thursday, September 6, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. A gallery talk will begin at 7:15 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

“collectors at heART” features artwork from the collections of eight Copper Country residents: Phyllis Fredendall, Robert and Christi Grame, Joyce Koskenmaki, Rick Loduha, Denise Vandeville, Christa Walck, and Mary Wright. Artwork media include sculpture, ceramics, paintings, mixed media, digital art, and even a piece made entirely of trash.

Historically, the “patron” has served an important role in the development of fine art, and it’s been said that today’s art patronage is tomorrow’s art history. But what role does patronage play in today’s culture? In these uncertain economic times, who collects art?

The word “patron,” from the Latin “patronus,” means “protector of clients” or “defender.” For these eight Copper Country residents, however, the motivation to collect art grows from the heart. The artworks they have purchased, traded, or been gifted have become treasured parts of their lives.

“As I was visiting homes to help select the artwork for the show, I came to understand how much this artwork means to their owners,” notes Carrie Flaspohler, director of the Finlandia University Gallery. “As they shared stories of how each piece was acquired, I sensed that their initial excitement about purchasing the pieces hadn’t diminished, but rather had been transformed into a deep respect for the artwork.”

Artist and collector Joyce Koskenmaki considers herself fortunate that she can trade work with other artists. But Koskenmaki also purchases art from artists “whose work I have needed to keep with me to nurture my soul.”

For community artist Mary Wright, collecting has become a life mission. “One of the reasons I am on earth is to collect art and support artists,” she asserts.

“It is truly my belief that artists have great power to move people positively,” Wright continues. “When I first see a piece that captivates my heart, I’m done for. I am going to find a way to buy it, whatever it takes.”

Wright says that she has acquired the artworks in her collection because she can’t live without them, and that she is happy to share them with others. She encourages everyone to collect art and support artists.

“As an artist, my motivations for buying art may be different from other collectors,” notes Denise Vandeville, explaining that she doesn’t buy art simply because its value may increase.

“My collecting practices rely completely on emotion,” Vandeville says. “I either know the artist as a person and I want a representation of them in my house (almost like a snapshot), or the form and/or content of the artwork strikes me on such a personal level that I want to live with it and see it every day.”

For Phyllis Fredendall, purchasing artwork is a way to support an admired artist. “I began collecting art years ago when a wonderful painter I knew needed money,” Fredendall explains. “I bought three of his pieces, in a way to be a caretaker of the work.”

An individual’s goals for art collecting may change as time passes, notes Christa Walck, whose interest in art started with ‘collectibles’ and crafts, then moved on to fine art and design.

“I have been collecting art for over 40 years,” Walck says. “I am addicted to beautiful things because they give life meaning, and I collect because I want to support artists and designers.

Walck also purchases art for public collections, including for the VanPelt and Opie Library at Michigan Technological University, Houghton, and the Copper Country Community Arts Center in Hancock.

For Robert and Christi Grame, their art collection “adds rich eclectic verb” to their lives. “We actively seek, trade, and purchase art artifacts (2d and 3d) that embrace a highly quirky narrative,” says Robert Grame. “Our art is not necessarily precious, but it is vital.”

“Life Without Art is Stupid” claims a popular bumper sticker. “Perhaps that bumper sticker is an overstatement, but I believe it is true,” says designer Rick Loduha, proposing that the “faint of heart” could tone it down to ‘Life Without Art is Empty.”

Loduha, who “honestly can’t imagine living without visual art” surrounding him, often barters his design expertise for the artwork of friends who are painters and sculptors.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by appointment.

Photo cutline: Installation of “collectors at heART”