THESE ‘CON’ ARTISTS ARE REAL PROS
MARY KATHERINE QUASARANO
THURSDAY APRIL 12th, 2012
Con Artist Crew is a dynamic arts movement in Grand Rapids led by artists Magdalene Law and Reuben Garcia – true partners in mission and vision – not crime. “We came up with the name while bantering back and forth on a title that would be edgy – but also tongue-in-cheek – a title that would be easy to remember, but also hard hitting” says Law. Make no mistake: there is nothing inauthentic or hidden or tricky about these talented artists. As they conduct a tour of their studio/gallery collaboration space opening this month, their excitement is palpable, their commitment unwavering, and “sweat equity” is in full evidence on the workbenches, construction tools, new drywall and dust.
There’s plenty of reason for them – and the Grand Rapids art community – to be excited, too. The space they are leasing at 1111 Godfrey (Suite 198) is a building complex known for attracting artists and innovation. Con Artist Crew’s mission is to provide local, emerging creatives with the space, community, and encouragement to thrive. Garcia shares, “The Con Artist Crew’s vision is to not only become a gallery, but an artistic center that facilitates a cultural investigation into the minds of both creators and audience. We currently have eight in-house studios with private entry and access and hope to have an additional three or more by June. Artists lease on an annual or semi-annual basis and each artist will have 24-hour access to their space because we know that inspiration can strike at any minute. We want to form a community where we play and work together.”
Law and Garcia first met as undergraduates while attending Kendall College of Art and Design. Law graduated in 2010 with a BFA in Graphic Design and studied illustration, public relations, social networking, marketing and advertising. In addition to the hard work of helping move Con Artist Crew from dream to reality, she is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Art Therapy. Garcia graduated in 2011 with a BFA in Sculpture and Functional Arts with multiple studies in drawing, painting, printmaking and screen printing. They have coordinated and shared in all aspects of the space’s renovation and design. Though their disciplines differ, they share a common drive and passion for local art and creativity.
As undergrads, both noted students being offered exhibition space at local prominent galleries. When their own invitations weren’t forthcoming, they made what was to become a prophetic decision. Instead of waiting for a gallery to find them – and others – they would create an exhibition space of their own. Garcia shares, “Everybody wants a piece of the spotlight and I want a piece myself. If we work together we can all shine and create something greater for this city.”
Law and Garcia maintained connection with each other post-graduation and independently dreamed of creating a space to merge a broad spectrum of aspiring artists together for the purpose of exploring and exhibiting their art. Law contacted Garcia about starting up a group, they met and have been on the same page since. Says Garcia, “Sharing a vision – we knew we had to get a space that would house our intentions.” In October 2011 Con Artist Crew formed as an LLC.
With smiles that light up the space, Garcia and Law declare their willingness to do whatever it takes, for however long it takes, to bring the gallery and studio to life. Law shares, “We aren’t going anywhere. We will eat rice for the next five months if that means creating something we believe in.”
We live in an age where the miracle of seeing vacant, historical buildings transformed into artistic centers and innovative offices has become commonplace, and that’s unfortunate. The drywall dust beneath Garcia’s sneakers and Law’s boots speak volumes. Two very talented and dedicated young people are helping to pry open doors to the Grand Rapids creative and entrepreneurial landscape, and undoubtedly, they’ll be changing the lives of aspiring artists for years to come.
These Cons are real pros.