‘Blank slate’ fills with artPublished 4:47pm Thursday, November 10, 2011
BARODA — When Bill and Greta Hurst saw an opportunity to open a business in southwest Michigan’s wine country, they seized it.
Tio’s Restaurant, located in the heart of downtown Baroda, had just come on the market for what Greta called a fair price. They bought it in late
2010 without knowing what they were going to put in it.
The Hursts, who had moved from Chicago to Baroda Township in 2005, began gathering ideas for their busines from neighbors and those living in town.
“People thought we were crazy for buying a business without first knowing what it would be,” Greta said. “We just referred to it as ‘tabula rasa’, the Latin term for blank slate. We thought we’d eventually figure it out.”
The Hursts came up with a list of more than a dozen possibilities, ranging from brewery to card shop. In the end, they went with an idea of their own: an art gallery.
“It seemed like a good fit,” Greta said.
The Hursts opened up Tabula Rasa Gallery on Front Street in September.
The gallery features Greta’s mosaics, Bill’s photographs, various works of art from local artists and artisanal food. It is open from noon to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Neither one of the Hursts are lifelong artists.
Greta worked as a caterer and paralegal before diving into art seriously after taking a class at Chicago Mosaic School in 2006. She created her first mosaic piece about five years ago and has been honing her skills at the craft ever since.
She loves using vintage windows as a substrate and says she is inspired by life’s experiences.
“I am big on sense memory,” Greta said.
“For example, if you look at a cornfield, what does it remind you of? I am always hoping to evoke some type of emotional response.”
Greta names all of her pieces, a quirk that her family and friends tease her about.
“People ask me why I name them all, but to me I’ve spent weeks with them,” she said. “So to me they have their own identity and they deserve a name.”
Bill currently works as a project manager in Chicago during the week and comes home to Baroda on the weekends. He began doing professional photography about two years ago, although you wouldn’t know it by looking at his work.
“He got his Christmas bonus, bought a big fancy camera and started shooting away,” Greta said.
Bill’s photographs generally focus on the natural beauty of Berrien County, from its landscapes to its farms to its people.
“He is very interested in helping people see and appreciate what we have right here in southwest Michigan,” Greta said.
Tabula Rasa will be holding a special kickoff to the holiday season Nov. 25-26, featuring three new artists and food samples from local vendors. They will be holding a holiday open house on Dec. 10 featuring smaller pieces of artwork Greta called “great for stocking stuffers.”
“Art doesn’t necessarily equate to lots of money,” Greta said. “There is a piece of art for every budget.”
The Hursts discovered Baroda some 20 years ago. They were living in Chicago at the time, but visited southwest Michigan on the weekends to bike ride and visit the area’s many wineries. They lived in Union Pier and Galien before buying a farm in Baroda Township in 2005.
They grow their own chardonnay grapes.