Calumet, stop apologizing

To the editor:

The Vertin Gallery’s closing leaves, as close to objectively as it is possible to be in this context, a major gap and loss for art in Calumet. My wife and I stood sadly outside an impressive and, in many ways, one of the most significant buildings in Calumet, which lies empty in cold, locking out draughtsmen and collage artists, locking out the sculptress and the cubomaniac, the etcher and laborer in encaustic.

A past and, I hope, future exhibitor in Calumet, I have noticed how the village’s “art scene” is often characterised as “vibrant.” However, in newspaper articles this is nearly always followed by questions posed in that particular tone which would never be done with any other legitimate field of endeavor. The auto mechanic would never fret, in the unfortunately masochistic tone that artists and even some gallerists have adopted, that Calumet had too many muffler shops, the restauranteur never maintain that even as the number of restaurants plunged it had enough places to eat, so more certainly didn’t need to open. The very modest number of galleries in Calumet mask a town’s outstanding yet neglected potential, in its people, in its remarkable faades of sandstone.

Supposed benefactors decided we would be better off without being burdened with the gold of noblemen. Thus, the system of galleries. But we are expected to play along with the self-perpetuating myth of the “starving artist.” This despite art producing millions for Michigan, artists being knights and millionaires, even noblemen themselves. A ridiculous game probably contributed to the closing of the Vertin.

I was asked at an art opening “What do you do?” Even in Manhattan I have listened to the director of an art association speak out passionately against art at a meeting. And while by no means specifically, or across the board, applying this accusation to Calumet, generally, artists have suffered from the common belief that the arts should be supported in every possible way (warm feelings, no sense of particular ill-will) except actually buying paintings.

Not only should the Vertin Gallery reopen and even be improved, but rather than retreating or standing pat, the residents of Calumet should open more galleries, more loci where the creativity of this land can break out. Calumet, you have nothing to apologize for. Artists, we have nothing to apologize for. Stop acting like it.


New York, NY