As an artist I love my work.
The outcome and not just the process.
Working an art show (yes it is work) can sometimes be very busy and chaotic and you may only get a few minutes to talk to a new collector. A collector is someone who sees value in the work.
For some people the value of my work should simply equate to money.
From my perspective, value is not simply money. Money is something some people burn and others horde.
Most collectors, families and individuals buy my work because of what it represents to them – a memory, a time period or a place. They don’t expect to see it at Sotheby’s. They do expect to pass it onto a family member as a valuable heirloom. They do expect it to serve as a marker of an idea or a concept or a moment. That is the value of fine art. That is why owning fine art is good for the soul.
All this brings me to a new friend and collector I met at The Kalamazoo Art Institute‘s Art Fair – Michael, and his dog Charlie.
On a dreary Friday evening they came strolling through my booth.
After a brief and surprisingly passionate conversation, I discovered a kindred spirit. See, he is a lover of his work too.
Michael immediately picked out my print “The Regular Dinner” and asked us to stash it away as he was on his way to the bank. When he returned he laughed and joked the money was actually his food budget the rest of the month.
Michael said to me “I may not be able to eat but I will have some fine art in my collection.” Clearly, Michael is a lover of the blarney too.
Now, at the time I am not sure what was actually true but it made me feel appreciated as an artist that someone would hold my work of such value in their life.
During the conversation, I learned he owned a historical landmark around the corner and that he would stop by again on Saturday.
Except, he didn’t just stop back.
Over two days he returned three more times and bought more fine art prints of some of my favorite works (shhh…don’t tell the other works I have favorites) and the next thing we knew we were into Charlie’s food budget as well.
While talking to Michael we quickly learned a great deal from this gregarious, eccentric Kalamazoo Renaissance man. We learned that he has spent his life and his fortune maintaining and trying to restore the historical Kalamazoo landmark William Welsh Terrace. The terrace is a set of 14 townhouses build in 1895 by “William L. Welsh, one of Kalamazoo’s prominent builders in the nineteenth century.“
We learned he loved his dog, his residents and his place in Kalamazoo. We learned that when he said he painted houses he didn’t really mean he was a painter. He is actually a master craftsman and artisan painter (a dying breed practicing a lost art).
We learned in the fourteen years of attending the art fair we were the first artist that he ever collected.
We learned he is a gadfly to they local press, zoning board and a longtime friend to the Kalamazoo Police Department and the city’s blue-collar population. We learned in the 60’s he was an active member of the then radical Students for a Democratic Society.
We were reminded that irony is being hired as janitor with keys to every office at the police department and court house while at the same time being part of an FBI group identified as domestic terrorists.
Ah, the 60’s such a crazy innocent time!
We learned there is little that happens in Kalamazoo that Michael and Charile doesn’t know about.
We learned his soul is forever in the William L. Welsh Terrace. We learned the William l. Walsh Terrace is his work.
Saturday, when he returned with photos of the rehabilitation of his love, he graciously invited us to come tour his building. Actually, we invited ourselves and Michael graciously accepted.
He is one of the most amazing men I’ve met in a longtime.
As we toured the building we learned he has painstakingly restored the detail and feel of the original building wherever he could. The doors, mailboxes, windows, hardware, stone work, stoves, ovens, bathtubs, ceilings, walls and floors are all lovingly restored.
He made arrangements for us to go into practically every apartment in his building and look at the different stages of the restoration. The residents must be use to his eccentrics because they graciously welcomed us.
As we walked into his third floor apartment we learned he is an amazingly talented, well-read, collector of Pre-Raphaelites, art deco furnishings, classic paintings and prints. Every wall covered in amazing classical art. We learned he is one of the finest painters of miniature figurines and hand built models I’ve ever seen. He is a fantastic cartoonist and storyteller.
It must be the Irish in him.
Oh and did I mention, he does all these things with one eye as he is blind in the other.
When I say he is a Renaissance man I’m not being cute or coy. Wow. Simply wow.
I could go on and on and on. I won’t. I can’t. There is simply too much for one post and I don’t think I can accurately portray how impressed we were with Michael and his work.
I appreciate the value of his work.
He appreciates the value of my work.
I know where the work goes now.