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Posted: 08/21/13


NEW SPACE FOR NEW ART. Above, from left, Museum of New Art (MONA) Project Director Paul Smith, Chief Curator Jessica Hopkins and Creative Director Jef Bourgeau stand in front of MONA's newest gallery in Armada. Below top, a scenic view of the Clinton River adds to the relaxed atmosphere the project developers are hoping to achieve. The museum will have an art auction on Aug. 24 and a grand opening on Sept. 28. Below bottom, Smith, Bourgeau and Hopkins stand by a tile display in the new museum.

(Observer photos by Chris Gray)

MONA establishes
new gallery in Armada

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Contemporary art and artists will find a new home in a rural atmosphere with the completion of a new museum in Armada.
       The Museum of New Art (MONA) has announced the construction and opening of its newest museum on 33 Mile Road east of Powell Road, with an art auction held this week to introduce itself to the community.
       MONA began in 1996 in Pontiac and grew from there, including a brief stint in the Detroit Institute of Arts in 1999. When the gallery was shut down, Jef Bourgeau, artist and MONA creative director, saw the need to create a modern art museum, and in 2000 received non-profit status to reach that goal.
       "The reason why I started it was there had been attempts over the last previous 35 years to have a contemporary museum in Detroit," he said. "From there things just happened."
       Within a month of opening, MONA was invited to take over the second floor of the Book Building in Detroit, but left in 2004 when the building closed. MONA returned to Pontiac where it currently resides.
       MONA's new satellite location owes part of its creation to Armada resident Paul Smith. Smith, president and owner of Abaris Health, said he was interested in MONA after meeting and buying art from Bourgeau three years ago.
       Smith is providing 60 acres of his own land and financial backing to build the museum. A former barn on the property is being converted into the main museum, a three-story building that will feature a spiral staircase, a small cafe and a glass floor.
       "I'm actually quite amazed, we started doing the heavy work six months ago," Smith said. "We should be finishing up here in about two weeks."
       The land has the Clinton River running through it, which Bourgeau said would be part of a sculpture walk, while another barn will transform into a gallery meant for larger pieces and installations.
       Bourgeau said Armada made a fine choice for the new satellite location because it provides a unique atmosphere and establishes a base to expand back into the Detroit area.
       "We want to break down the barriers and intimidation of what art can be, so having it out here makes it really comfortable," he said. "Everybody should be exposed to art, from the poor to the rich, children especially."
       He said establishing a strong museum system in the Metro Detroit area will not only expose more people to art, but also help artists stay in the area to establish their careers.
       "This will be the nerve center (for MONA)," Bourgeau said. "We're far enough away that it's relaxing enough for artists and critics and thinkers to come in and throw around ideas."
       Smith agreed, saying he wants the museum to eventually become a place where people can spend their day enjoying art and the ambiance.
       "I think this will be a pleasant surprise for northern Macomb," Smith said. "There's nothing like it in the area."
       Opening events
       The community can have its first look at the emerging museum during an art auction from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 24, at the Armada location. The event will feature music, refreshments and the chance to meet artists and museum staff.
       More than 75 artists from Michigan and around the world have donated small and large works to be sold, ranging from $50 to thousands of dollars in value. Contributing artists include Pae White, the Gao Brothers and Uta Barth.
       Early bidding began Tuesday and will run from noon to 8 p.m. each day through Friday, Aug. 23. Proceeds will benefit MONA.
       The museum's grand opening will be 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sept. 28 with its "Documenta, USA" exhibit. New York art critic Jerry Saltz will host the event, which focuses on archival material from artists for people to see and touch.
       Programs MONA will feature include Art Truck, where a truck transports exhibitions and workshops to different places, an artist foreign exchange program and youth workshops for inner-city kids. A database of Michigan artists will also be developed to give artists extra exposure.
       "A big mission would be to organize the artists in our community," Smith said.
       Future plans are to open a space in Troy that specializes in photography and new media.
       Tickets for the art auction are $10 each, but is free for members. For more information, call Project MONA at 855-DET-MONA or visit detroitmona.com.
      


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