New owners to continue Grand Rapids’ LaFontsee Galleries legacy

Grand Rapids’ LaFontsee Galleries has enjoyed nearly four decades of success. When its founders, Linda and Scott LaFontsee, decided to retire, they asked one of their regular exhibiting artists, Kate Meyer, and her husband, Jason Meyer, if they’d like to buy the gallery.

“It wasn't something that I was seeking out. And it was really kind of a fun surprise when Linda and Scott approached me and asked if I'd be interested and that they were retiring. As an artist, it was a place that I've always admired,” Kate Meyer says. “When the universe calls you have to answer, right?”

A painter working in encaustic, a mixture of beeswax and pigment, Meyer has degrees in fine art and zoology and more than a decade of experience working with environmental nonprofits. Jason Meyer’s professional background includes conservation, environmental education and nonprofit management. He was president and CEO of Blandford Nature Center for seven years and is currently the executive director for the White Oak Initiative, a nationwide effort addressing the decline of the white oak.

“Jason is the down-to-earth, pragmatic person in the relationship,” Kate Meyer says. “His advisory role will be really helpful to run the business.”

The Meyers have no big changes in mind for the 24,000 square-foot gallery at 833 Lake Dr. SE. They will continue to represent the gallery’s more than 70 artists — many local to Michigan.

“We have artists from across the country and sometimes even internationally,” Kate Meyer says. “I'm consistently amazed and impressed by their professionalism and talent. The other thing I love is that we have such a wide range of art and services, everything from posters to prints to original art, so the price range is accessible for everyone.”

LaFontsee Galleries also will continue to offer installation, framing, digital photo restoration, printing, consulting and event space. The gallery’s staff of 15 will remain on board. Even the name will remain the same.

“Because I have a background in science and nature, we are exploring how we can use our outdoor space,” Kate Meyer says. “We may increase our sculptures and our three-dimensional artists in a space that's healing and special, where people can come and experience the art in a way that's also bringing in nature.”

Over the years, LaFontsee Galleries has garnered many accolades, including more than 20 awards from local publications Grand Rapids Magazine and the now-defunct On The Town. American Art Awards recognized it as one of America’s top 20 galleries and best gallery in Michigan in 2022. The gallery received the ArtServe Michigan Governor’s Award for Arts and Culture in 2004. As art consultants to Michigan businesses and nonprofits, LaFontsee Galleries oversaw 14 floors of art developed by and with children during the 2011 launch of the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

“This gallery really helped kickstart the early days of the emerging art scene in West Michigan. They were at the forefront,” Meyer says. “We're really excited about continuing to support and elevate local artists, especially emerging artists that are in the area.”

To celebrate the gallery’s ownership transition, the LaFontsees and the Meyers are hosting an open house there from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

“The gallery is so well known for being welcoming and inclusive and very community driven,” Kate Meyer concludes. “That's one of the things that really inspired me to explore this, and of course something that we want to maintain and grow.”

Written by Estelle Slootmaker, Development News Editor.
Photos courtesy LaFontsee Galleries.

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