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G-Sync: All that glitters is west side gold

Remaining true to her commitment to the West Michigan region, Glitter Milk Gallery director Miranda Sharp has given all of us, from artists to art lovers, plenty to embrace over this last year. Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen talks with her about collaboration, creativity, and keeping her neighborhood connected.
It has been almost a year since Glitter Milk Gallery signed their lease and was featured in Rapid Growth. But if you thought this new space that feels more like a pop-up than a gallery was showing any signs of fading, you clearly have not been paying attention. 
Remaining true to her commitment to showcase works of art that are often not seen on gallery walls within the West Michigan region, Glitter Milk Gallery director Miranda Sharp has given all of us, from artists to art lovers, plenty to embrace over this last year.
I will admit that not only do I follow the gallery on Facebook with heightened anticipation as to what Glitter Milk will exhibit next, I have also been quite impressed with how she started an art business in the first place. Upon receiving her most recent press release, which represents growth in every way, from how she packages the gallery to how she is collaborating, I noted for a first-time gallery owner, Sharp is, well, really sharp!
As we talked for an hour earlier this week while a mountain of snow buried my car, Sharp mused on the local art scene, the challenges of running a gallery in the middle of a Westside neighborhood, but most importantly, what she's going to wear to the Grand Rapids Comic-Con this weekend. (She's dressing up as a character from Saga, a sci-fi series Sharp describes as something "Star Wars-like but sexier.")
Sharp reiterated what she already shared with writer Audria Larsen back in April: she really meant to open a gallery that was much closer to what she had experienced while in Los Angeles. Glitter Milk Gallery reflects the uniqueness of a west coast gallery, where instead of simply white walls and cold spaces, it reflects the energy and spirit of the individual space. That is how Sharp landed at such a new kind of gallery space in West Michigan.
The way she approaches her gallery is visible in the space itself as well as in the exhibits she chooses to show. Along with furniture artist Josh McVety, who designed many of the furniture pieces in Sharp's gallery, she designed Glitter Milk to reflect her Southern California aesthetic, with bleached pastel paint colors and curvy lines all evoking a souped-up engine bred with Picasso's playful-as-a-beach-ball images of women that make the connection to LA's laid-back spirit.
Even the most traditional of works suddenly seem fresh in Glitter Milk. And if you look closely at the work being shown here, you begin to see a pattern that takes us back to artists like Ed Ruscha, David Hockney, and Richard Diebenkorn – who, as illustrated in the LA-area show Pacific Standard Time, were all fighting to break away from the idea that there were really only two art worlds in post-WW2 America: New York and Everywhere Else, USA.
Sharp is not afraid to experiment. She often presents exhibitions filled with broad themes as a result of the collaboration she insists on with the other artists and/or curators who are also seeking to do something different here in our region. And she doesn't seek to do something different just for different's sake, either. Glitter Milk curates really good work that is off the beaten path and deserves a look-see from the community.
Over the last year, Sharp's press releases have become more pumped up with impressive names as well as incredible collaborations with well-established artists (of all genres) and college professors in our community. In December Glitter Milk Gallery will premiere a brand-new event that is a first-time, literature-infused collaboration with one of Sharp's former KCAD professors and published author Dr. Adam Schuitema with the gallery.
Unlike past displays, which have included stickers as art and educational programming around topics like graffiti writing, the December show will produce a new kind of "document" where everyone will be on the same level within the gallery.
You may say, how is this possible? I will admit even I was a bit confused at first, but it really makes sense.
"Unlike most gallery shows where work goes up on the wall and people have an opportunity to purchase an edition prints with often a clear favorite selling many as others languish to the close of the reception," says Sharp, "I wanted a different experience for our artists where all them are celebrated together with each sale." 
Sharp and Schuitema's solution was actually found through the process of inviting Midwest authors to submit short stories that have already been published elsewhere, then allow local artisans to illustrate these stories via the book covers they would create based on the individual short stories.
In all, there will be 15 stories from nine authors, with a few of these literary artists contributing 2 stories each. Some of these artists include Bonnie Jo Campbell, a Michigan native who has been featured in The New Yorker, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, and The Washington Post; Caitlin Horrocks, a recent transplant to Grand Rapids and the author of  "Sun City" published in The New Yorker; and Chicago native Matthew G. Frank, whose book "Preparing the Ghost" and works can be seen within The New York Times Book Review, Vanity Fair, and The Wall Street Journal.
When I asked Sharp if she intended to produce 15 separate little books, she explained a very limited edition anthology book would be published, with the beginning of each short story containing the cover from one of our area designer/artists. And when I asked if she was planning on selling reproductions of the artwork, Sharp had a much different reply than I expected.
"I have thrown gallery events in the past where limited edition art pieces were available only to witness how some items quickly connect with the audience as other pieces languish the entire evening before selling maybe just one," says Sharp. "I wanted to equalize the Speed Read experience since in order for me to present something successful for everyone who worked on this anthology I needed to offer a different platform."
The December 13 opening will instead feature the original artwork for the book, but alongside it will be large reproductions being placed on the wall for people to see the artwork's details up close -- but only for viewing purposes, not for sale, so don't ask. The only way you'll be able to secure an image you enjoy will be to purchase the book, allowing all the artists to benefit (except the authors).
"When we contacted the authors and informed them we hoped to publish an anthology of these short stories, we had to ask about payment," says Sharp. "We were very impressed how every one of our authors said that because these works have already been published in other places and since we have received payment, we would like to bypass our fees to make sure the artists creating the illustrations of these stories be compensated."
So if you ask me why I get so excited when I get a press release or invitation to attend a function at Glitter Milk Gallery, it is because, quite frankly, Sharp has done something truly remarkable in her space in less than a year: she has continued the great artistic tradition of creating community by reinventing ways for us to be more equitable. She not only lives it by bring the creative community together through the gallery and the collaborative shows, but she's also made a commitment to be connected to her local economy by choosing to spend money and time with her neighbors on the West Side.
Sharp really loves where she is living because she can walk to so many different places around her live/work space as she gets to know the tiny and often-hidden little shops that provide services to this corner of the West Side. (Sharp, along with McVety, lives above the gallery/workspace.)
As she reflects on a recent show focusing on the art of heavy metal, Sharp shares a personal story about how the street was full of all these motorcycle people in front of the facade of this pastel pink gallery at a show co-curated with musician Chris Eddy. "I kept looking up and smiling as I saw this deliberate mix of art and culture within my neighborhood," says Sharp. "I believe the mission of my gallery with each show has been to create a reason for people to come out and join us at our opening or closing receptions."
This is another area where Miranda Sharp breaks from the rest of the crowd; she loves to offer a closing ceremony reception. It enables people who missed it the first time to catch it on the very last day, but most importantly, it gives the artists one more opportunity to connect with their audience and with her neighborhood.
About that neighborhood: Sharp has no beef with yoga or even high-end coffee shops but is very hesitant when I ask her if she has heard of others wanting to move into her sleepy little corner of the West side.
"Sure, I understand fully what can happen once people discover an area. They will all begin to flock to it and think how can they be a part of it," says Sharp, who exhibits a very evolved perspective on the topic of gentrification of cities, "but I would really feel terrible if by opening this gallery and creating this creative community here . . . as things grew up around it, we would have to displace the very neighbors I have come to enjoy getting to know in my new neighborhood."
Sharp doesn't know what the solution is for this matter, but since she is keenly aware of the realities and is -trying to balance the known with the unknown all the time, I am certain if anyone can harness an audience to explore this topic more fully in a meaningful presentation, then you can be sure Sharp and Glitter Milk will be high on the list of people I believe can deliver.
The Future Needs All of Us (and I cannot imagine a future city without some glitter.)
Tommy Allen
Lifestyle Editor

Here are four great events that will help you prepare for your break over the holiday. Please support local businesses this holiday season by shopping local. Follow Rapid Growth on Facebook to see some great new products uploaded as we discover them.
Images provided by the Glitter Milk Gallery. Preview of the Speed Read book cover art has been provided by Andrew Trabbold.
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