Nice is Not a Four-Letter Word

Attention art lovers and art collectors: Friday, Dec. 16 marks a special milestone for The Nice Gallery. The artist-run gallery, located in the heart of a thriving creative community at 1111 Godfrey Ave. SW, will host its first major show entitled the 100 Grand Show. The show comprises 100 artists, 100 works of art, at 100 dollars each.

There’s no telling precisely what you’ll find there as the show is still being curated as I type this, but it’s safe to say that it will be very, very nice. Entries are being narrowed down to those artists whose work best reflects the talent and diversity of the local art community. Established and up-and-coming artists alike are participating.

“The purpose of this show is to encourage people to start supporting and following local artists,” says the gallery’s co-owner, curator and all-around nice guy, Dylan Gunnett, 22. “We see this as an opportunity to present works of art in a way that is not only accessible to seasoned collectors, but also to someone who has never supported their local arts.”

Foster and Gunnett hope The Nice Gallery will form the bedrock for a creative hub. Their mission: to find the best local talent and compete nationally and internationally with the big cities.

“We scout for up-and-coming artists and put them on an even playing field with those who are established,” says co-owner and equally nice guy, Adam Foster, 23. “We want to get people excited about collecting art.”

The plan is to curate one show a month, as well as some group shows, including national and international artists to get Grand Rapids on the map like Berlin, New York and San Francisco.

Foster and Gunnett also hope artists will become excited about being a part of it -- “to go down the path to foster new art love,” as Gunnett puts it. He describes life at 1111 Godfrey as “a surreal experience, being surrounded by such a positive, creative and unique space.”

The Nice Gallery has been open seven months. Gunnett and Foster spent a year searching high and low before deciding on the 3,000-square-foot space.

“We looked at spaces all over Grand Rapids,” says Foster. “Nothing beats what we have for the price.”

“There’s no way we could afford a space like this in a city like Chicago,” adds Gunnett, who spent three years living and working in the “Windy City.” He attended Columbia College for a year, then worked as a freelance filmmaker and networked for a couple of years before moving back to Grand Rapids.

Using salvaged materials, the two are renovating the space themselves, learning as they go. Friends and relatives help with the tricky stuff like plumbing and electricity. The sink, desks, cabinet and bookshelves came from St. Andrews Middle School before it was demolished last April. Some cool, multi-purpose objects have been scavenged on-site. An old cart original to the building is now used as a coffee table and doubles as a beast of burden. And, of course, Craigslist and area consignment shops such as Minty Keen yield more cool odds and ends.

“We didn’t know exactly what direction we were going and made it up as we went along,” says Foster. What they do know, however, is precisely where they were at 11:11 on 11/11/11.

The space doubles as an office for their bread-and-butter business, It’s Just Nice, which focuses on all aspects of branding, from logo to interior design.

“It’s a creative collective,” says Foster. “We connect with local artists for some of the projects. We build relationships with our clients and integrate their business’ personality to portray it in a new, fresh, creative light in print, photo, video, website and interior design. We build a complete experience -- everything is cohesive.”

“We want to create timeless experiences, not something that will be dated in 50 years,” adds Gunnett.

Foster and Gunnett met quite by chance, a seemingly random moment, crossing paths at a bike shop (now gone) on Division Ave. Their talents complement each other nicely.

Foster is originally from Spring Lake and has worked as a freelance film editor at Gorilla Pictures in Grand Rapids. He also worked for Dot&Cross before the multimedia company moved out to Los Angeles. Foster lives in Heritage Hill with his wife, Liz, who plans to be an art teacher after graduating from Kendall College of Art & Design.

Art courses through Gunnett’s veins, possibly in no small part due to being reared by creative parents. His father is local artist, Tim Gunnett, who used to share a space with Michael Pfleghaar and Rapid Growth’s Tommy Allen at the former Tanglefoot Studio. Gunnett remembers his mother Sandi, a fine art photographer, minding Reb Roberts’s gallery, Sanctuary Folk Art at 140 S. Division long before Division was a destination for art.

After Dec. 16, the 100 Grand Show will be open by appointment for the following week until Christmas.

Originally from Milwaukee, WI, Victoria Mullen has lived in GR long enough to know better. Besides writing articles for RGM, she acts, paints, does lawyerly stuff and is the Research and Media Maven for MP Talent Management Group.
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