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A change of space

Pictured is the recently sold Studio Gallery, located on Island Beach Road off Lakeshore Boulevard. (Journal photo by Trinity Carey)
Kathleen Conover creates an original watercolor piece in her former studio. (Photos courtesy of Kathleen Conover)

MARQUETTE — The Upper Peninsula poses an abundance of natural inspiration, especially the Lake Superior shoreline. For 25 years world-renowned artist Kathleen Conover has owned The Studio Gallery located on Island Beach Road, but now she’s in the process of moving her paintings out, and another artist will be moving her creations in.

Conover is well known for her original watercolor paintings that depict everything from flora and fauna and landscapes, to industrialism and iconic Marquette scenes, but she didn’t start off as a watercolor artist.

Conover completed her undergraduate at San Diego State University and the University of Washington. While painting was always her first love, throughout school, she explored textiles, printmaking, metalsmithing, jewelry making, sculpture and other mediums. Eventually, she found herself devoting most of her time to painting, first with oil then acrylic and finally watercolor.

Conover couldn’t have picked a better medium, because once she moved to the Upper Peninsula in 1976 and earned her Masters of Art from NMU, she realized watercolor was the best way for her to replicate the beauty here, she said.

“It can be fine lined, detailed or it can be very loose, expressionistic, colorful, abstract, fluid and in a way the textures and fluidity of the medium really lends itself to our natural environment up here,” Conover said.

When the opportunity to buy the gallery came about, she couldn’t pass it up. It was a way to focus on her art full time and make it a viable career, she said.

“The kids were raised, they were gone so moving in here it allowed me to eat, sleep, work, art, and I did,” Conover said. “I lived here, I could do my work here, it always has been a working studio and I could sell my work here.”

Throughout her 25 years in business, Conover was able to invite other respected local artists to house their work in the gallery, such as Vicki Allison Phillips, Maggie Linn and Yvonne LeMire.

She also created award-winning artwork that would end up in exhibits around the world. In the last ten years, her art has led her to traveling and teaching workshops around the country. Teaching and traveling keeps her closer to her passion for painting than the retail work of running the gallery, which is exactly why she’s decided to sell the space.

“The bad news about the gallery is it has become a regular stop for many people up here to visit, and they come in in the summers, so it’s gotten busier, Marquette has gotten busier with the increased tourism, and the gallery has gotten bigger with increased tourism,” Conover said. “It has made my actual painting here not as easy. I don’t get very much done … So it seems appropriate after 25 years to let one of my activities go and it’s certainly not going to be painting, and I enjoy the teaching and the traveling too much, so I’m going to drop retailing.”

This won’t be the end of art competitions or the selling of her work though. Paintings can still be purchased from her online gallery at kathleenconover.com and eventually from her home by appointment. Conover will continue to run the galley from noon to 5 p.m. daily until May 30.

Conover is grateful for the learning experiences and opportunities that have come with owning the gallery, but the change is bittersweet.

“I’m going to miss it terribly on one hand, in fact I hope the new owner lets me do a little withdrawal gently as I leave over the summer so I will be in here still framing up and matting original works and keeping my inventory up, but I also look forward to the time being my own to create and paint without feeling pushed,” Conover said.

Conover will continue selling her work out of the gallery now through September and at a discounted price. All pieces are a minimum of 25 percent off.

On June 1, the new owner of the space will take over the selling of Conover’s work as well as her own. Michele Dupras, the owner of Revisions Design Studio, said the gallery will be an expansion of her handcrafted, modern ceramics business on Washington Street. Dupras assured that no changes will be made to her existing business, which carries her team’s ceramic work as well as work from small independent designers around the country.

“The storefront is not changing, the storefront is not moving, nothing is going to change with our location downtown,” Dupras said. “It’s doing fabulous, and we wouldn’t want to do anything. The gallery is just a way for us to have a space to retail just our work and I will be using it personally as my studio to do all my design work…”

Once summer comes to a close and The Studio Gallery has fully transitioned into Revisions Design Studio, Dupras plans to host private ceramic classes and wheel throwing lessons in the studio.

“I personally have always enjoyed the act of teaching or sharing my craft and I think there’s a lot of people in the community who would like to be involved in something more creative without having to necessarily take a class at Northern,” Dupras said. There aren’t really any other ceramic studios that offer a space to come and work in clay and so I think having that opportunity throughout the winter especially, winters are long here, I think it would be a really nice outlet for a large demographic of people whether young or old.”

Dupras is honored to take over the space from Conover and expand her ceramics design in an inspirational, working studio. Dupras will begin posted business hours June 13 and be open 10 am. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.