By Dezimon Alicea, Gary Crusader
In 2002, the first pitch was thrown inside of the Gary Railcats Stadium. And since its inception, it has garnered the attention of fans from all over this region, including Chicago, and parts of Michigan. Fast forward to 2016, right across the street from the stadium, 411 E. 5th. Avenue has been the home to many restaurants, but the Art House plans on being there for some time.
I entered The Art House for the first time a few months ago for their grand opening. It was filled to capacity with people from all walks of life, and they jammed in the alley ways with cars leading up the front doors, to see what The Art House was all about. Just like many people, I was curious as to just what The Art House was all about and I was able to have those questions answered.
The Art House, is focused on dispelling “Negative connotations associated with Gary,” according to Michele Larimer, project manager. Many residents stand with the Art House, in hopes to change the public perception of Gary, but not everyone is enthused. Some stakeholders for the Art House and even Michele herself are not Gary residents, for some people this can be an issue. Some residents feel as though it can be counterproductive for outsiders to come and have a hand in what may work for the city. This is something Michele is aware of, and intends to halt those suspicions. In lieu of the pessimism she’s received, Michele remains optimistic and continues to push forward.
“Hiring from within the community,” has been a key component to the vision of the Art House and a way to answer the cries of critics. “Creating jobs for many of the unemployed in the city,” is a high point Michele wanted to mention. As project manager, Michele was able to pull on different entities from within the city while establishing The Art House’s presence. While driving down 5th Avenue, right before you turn into the Art House parking lot, you will see a huge art piece hanging on the side of the building. That was done by Live Arts Studios in Gary. Benches and other art pieces in the building were also created by Gary residents.
Gary is a city known for its artistic roots, and the Art House hopes to maximize on those roots, by providing a platform for showcasing the city’s potential,” according to Michele. As she spoke, you could feel the passion protruding from her every statement. Michele not only has passion, but she has an extensive background in hospitality, urban design/ urban planning and community development; she believes this background will help to move things forward with the Art House.
Michele was anxious to talk about the different programming the Art House offers, and those programs range in variety. Starting with their homegrown meal program; which delivers homegrown meals to Gary residents. Something, Michele and the entire Art House team look forward to regularly. They have a culinary exploration program; where experts in different fields come out to share their expertise with students. Lastly, their culinary incubation workshops; where those who are interested in starting food based businesses can learn from pros in that field. “Someone who is in the beginning stages of business, can learn from someone that’s been in the business for let’s say three years,” said Michele. Business plans, marketing, and budgets are all strategies that a student can learn while attending these programs. An added benefit, all of the programming is free to the public. But in some cases, you might run into a waiting list.
Michele is hopeful about what the Art House can bring to this community. She solicits residents to come out and learn about their programing as well as taking part of their different events. More information can be found on their website, www.arthousegary.com; or on their facebook page at ArtHouse Gary.
The Art House is located at 411 E. 5th Avenue in Gary and regular business hours are from 9-5, Monday through Friday.