Michigan City Arts Center Casts a Wider Net with Blockbuster Exhibits | Entertainment

MICHIGAN CITY — The Lubeznik Center for the Arts has stepped up in recent years to bring museum-caliber exhibitions from Chicago to northwest Indiana, featuring blockbuster exhibits featuring Andy Warhol, the Chicago Imagists, Robert Indiana, Theaster Gates and other prominent and famous artists.

Next year, the Lubeznik will feature a blockbuster exhibit featuring Vivian Maier, a Chicago photographer who worked as a nanny and is widely considered an unsung genius who was only discovered after her death.

Maier’s work was retrieved from the warehouse and has since been exhibited in Chicago and around the world to critical and public acclaim.

Longtime executive director of the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, Janet Bloch, has worked to bring the quality of art that can be found in Chicago to the art center located between downtown Michigan City and the edge of the lake.

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“We try to show more contemporary artists and some of the best artists in the world, with an international reputation,” she said. “Why would you bring anything less? We want kids to be able to see the same art that big city kids see on field trips.

“We want the same relevance. We want works that inspire dialogue. We want to get people talking where they don’t just watch the news and get angry. You can bring in work that’s a bit provocative and have a much safer conversation.”

The hope is to make Lubeznik an essential destination for the Region and beyond.

“We’re trying for bigger exposures, not just with summer blockbusters,” Bloch said. “We get a lot of word of mouth from shows like Warhol. We’re looking to generate more interest.”

She hopes to attract more people from Michigan City and afar to the Lubeznik. He advertised some of the biggest exhibits in recent years on WBEZ to attract visitors from across the greater Chicago metropolitan area.

“It would rank among the top 10 destinations in the county. They reach a whole different demographic than many of our leisure destinations,” said Jack Arnett, CEO of the LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s definitely at the top of the list when it comes to quality of life and quality of place.”

Bloch ran a gallery in Chicago before starting work at the Lubeznik in 2009 and becoming executive director in 2016. Bloch herself is an artist; she is a painter who studied at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“I pursued it pretty seriously for a couple of decades,” she said. “I’m trying to get back into it. It’s not exactly the time, just the creative energy.”

Chicago galleries represented his work in the 1990s and 2000s. His art often featured personal narratives with a decorative influence. She moved to Chesterton and began creating larger works that juxtapose nature and industry, reflecting the Calumet-area landscapes she saw on her drive to Chicago.

“It was very whimsical and somewhat abstract,” Bloch said. “You always know what everything is, like power lines, but they became totems. There were always stories but the conflicts were much bigger. I saw nature and industry co-thrive from in a way, which is weird. My art centers my own feeling but it’s become more of an outside narrative.”

She has been immersed in the arts since she was a child. She has long enjoyed visiting museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Seattle Art Museum and the Folk Art Museum in Sante Fe, New Mexico.

“As far back as I can remember, I loved the arts,” Bloch said. “We went to many art museums when I was young, both on school trips and as a family. I loved drawing in high school and started painting. I was with a friend of mine in an art store that had no desire to buy Artists are just built differently There was nothing in this art store that I wouldn’t have bought I would have tried these paints or these paintings or whatever there.

His influences are diverse, including decorative art, medieval art, abstract art, folk art, and even advertising and comic book illustration.

“Every time we went to a city, we went to art museums,” she said. “I’ve been to some pretty amazing museums and we’re trying to bring the same kind of work here.”

Established as the John G. Blank Art Center in 1978, the Lubeznik got its current name and location at 101 W. 2nd St. #100 in Michigan City after art enthusiasts Jack and Shirley Lubeznik donated of the building. It’s one of Michigan City’s gems, said Clarence Hulse, executive director of Michigan City Economic Development Corp.

“The Lubeznik Center for the Arts brings together art, beauty and natural space and is a true community gem – an amenity that Michigan City residents can be truly proud of and also a showpiece for our visitors,” said- he declared. “They have continued to bring quality artwork and exhibitions from famous artists to educate our community and have also become an incubator for new and enterprising artists in our community. We are proud to have such an institution and a refined partner in our community.”

Bloch wants to go beyond gallery exhibitions to bring more artistic experiences to the community, such as commissioning public murals in coordination with local churches.

“We make sure to raise awareness and bring artistic experiences to the community,” Bloch said. “The arts are an equalizer. We want to make sure we are a driving force for the arts in the community.”

The Lubeznik brings in students for field trips, does pop-up art at community centers, and does outreach at schools in the Michigan City area, such as with after-school programs and STEAM camps. He also partners to bring the arts to nonprofit organizations like Paladin, a social learning institution for people with dementia, and The Caring Place, a shelter for victims of domestic violence.

“It’s really the mission to provide education and awareness to everyone 365 days a year,” she said. “We want to make art accessible.”

The Lubeznink attracts thousands of visitors to its open-air Lubeznik Art Festival, which is also helping to attract more people to the galleries, including some locals who said they had never set foot there before from their life. Larger exhibits like Warhol, the Chicago Imagists, and “Well-Behaved Women” helped generate buzz, attracting more visitors.

“We stepped it up in order to get people to see top-notch art,” Bloch said. “We have to think of ourselves that way, whether it’s the way the tags are written or the tours taken. The artists and the museums that lend to us have to trust us as an institution, to know that we will do things optimally.

“People who come to see the show also expect excellence. They don’t want to see talent but say it wasn’t as well hung as it could have been or they could have give us more information. We want it to be really compelling whether it’s a sophisticated art audience or kids coming to see the art.”

The Lubeznik is currently working with the Chicago History Museum to exhibit some of Maier’s photographs next summer.

“She’s a photographer whose work was discovered in a locker in Chicago. They found this incredible work of a nanny who was a photographer documenting street life,” Bloch said. “It’s going to cost money to bring it up and we have to weigh that to see if the community is going to be excited and what exposure it’s going to bring us.

“Staff are thinking about these exhibits that could be rewarding. We don’t just want to stay with the status quo. We want to attract more people. We want to have more educational opportunities. We want to engage a variety of audiences. We want to excite people and create an appetite for the arts.”

Michigan City, already home to many galleries and artists, has consciously pursued the arts as an attraction in recent years, including investing in the Uptown Arts District, a downtown artist colony, sculptures public and various other artistic initiatives. Lubeznik hopes to build on that momentum and grow in the years to come, Bloch said.

“The vision is for Michigan City to become a destination for the arts,” she said. “We want to be a driving force for the arts across the Region and help make quality of life what we know it can be.”

The Lubeznik strove to bring the arts to the more economically deprived areas of the city, for example by bringing more public murals to the west side.

“We believe the arts improve quality of life and economic development,” she said. “We know restaurants have popped up along Franklin Street. Art has power and value. People like to live around it, as you see in some of the wall hallways of Chicago. People are proud of it. .”

Julia P. Cluff