Fabrication shop and gallery METAL branching out as venue for events
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Becoming event promoters was never the primary goal of METAL owners Claudette Jocelyn Stern and John Walters. First and foremost, they run a metalwork design studio, fabrication shop, and gallery. But on the side, their entertainment and educational events have been drawing a crowd.
Major orders of business at METAL include obtaining commissions for one-of-a-kind metal works and restoring objects—wrought-iron staircase banisters, architectural embellishments and sculpture, furniture, car restorations, and other design objects, for example. Attracting customers to METAL's gallery, which features picked objects, re-purposed salvaged items, and original artworks, is another large part of the enterprise. And they are also in the midst of launching their first product line of metal coffee, end, and object tables.
However, as a secondary thought, they want to make the space a "hub" where people gather, Stern says.
And people are already gathering at METAL to watch musicians, composers, dancers, poets, and other performers; attend workshops; or throw nonprofit gatherings and private events. Mostly through word of mouth and social networking, people have been drawn to the unique space on Felch Street, just off Main.
"From the beginning, I was interested in METAL being a hub for artistic, philosophical, scientific explorations. For me, I knew all along that I didn't want to just create the gallery, factory, and design space, but a place where different activities and interests can take place," Stern says.
Luckily, the fabrication shop happens to be a suitable venue for performances. The shop's high arched ceiling and plenty of open space for an audience—which can extend outside through the garage door on warm nights—give the space acoustic value.
There is something fun about hanging out amidst machines, metalworking tools, and shelves full of salvaged objects. It lets you look behind the scenes and glimpse how metal objects are made, restored and reused.
"It's really to our advantage to allow customers, as well as the people who come out for shows and events, as much insight as possible into metal work. The more they understand, the more they get geeked up about a commission, restoration, or an object," Walters says.
"Unlike some other fabrication shops, this one is well lit, safe to have people in, and it allows people to feel like they are a part of the process. I think the shop is comfortable and inviting compared to more industrial settings," Walters says. And he adds that "having this inviting atmosphere allows us to use it as a multifunctional space in terms of events, gatherings, and renting the space out to private groups."
Stern also sees hosting events as a way to better connect with Ann Arbor locals. "Our business is international, so we can design anywhere and our customers and commissions can be anywhere. Inviting people into our storefront for events is something we can do to engage people right here in town," she explains.
Next up on METAL's events calendar: On Nov. 23, Nashville musicians and former Ann Arborites Whit Hill and Al Hill will play songs from Whit's forthcoming CD, "The Southerner," which is due to be released in early 2013. Whit, who helped found annual Kerrytown music festival Nashbash, is an "avid metal detectorist," who will be displaying metal objects she has found over the last two year, according to the announcement. Suggested donation is $10.
More events will be announced on METAL's events webpage as they are scheduled. One Pause Poetry will host more poetry readings there, TBA. And "renegade events that we can just throw together," as Stern says, are bound to pop up now and again.
Stern and Walters say that a metal working symposium might be in store for the future, depending on how much interest they can drum up. "We like the idea of having learned artists and scholars come and present their work and have a roundtable discussion. It could come out of combining smaller events, discussions, workshops, or lectures we hold here," Walters says.
METAL is located at 220 Felch St. in Ann Arbor. For more information, see the website, www.metaloffmain.com