Off the beaten path

Published 5:12 pm Thursday, December 1, 2011

Off the Water photo/CRAIG HAUPERT Artwork from the Lakeside Center for the Arts is currently featured at Main Street Galleries in Benton Harbor.

BENTON HARBOR — There are two new reasons to visit the arts district in Benton Harbor.

Last week, Main Street Galleries and M’s Jemz opened at 74 W. Main St., between New Moon Gallery and Tabor Hill Wine Tasting.

M’s Jemz customers can create their own beadwork right in the shop with the help of owner/artist Miranda Skibbe. Submitted photo

In collaboration with Lakeside Center for the Arts, Main Street Galleries is presenting paintings by internationally recognized Polish artist Wlodzimierz Pawlak, Holland’s Hans Vanhorck, ceramics by Georgian artist Nato Eristavi and glass works by Ostar Vephkvadze and Ia Gigoshvili. New ceramic works by John Wilson are also being shown alongside a selection of fine antique and period furniture and decorative arts.

Featured artwork will change every six weeks or so, according to Main Street Galleries owner Scott Elliot.

“What you are looking at now is very much what is happening internationally. It is very current and avant-garde, but we will occasionally show more traditional things,” Elliot said. “The real theme here will be quality. We are going to vet things very carefully to make sure we maintain a level of quality people will come to identify with us.”

M’s Jemz, located within the gallery, is a bead shop that features handcrafted and custom-designed jewelry by Miranda Skibbe, a Benton Harbor native.

Main Street Galleries owner Scott Elliot hopes his gallery will come to be known for its high quality art.

Skibbe became interested in bead artwork when she was a teenager, frequenting the few bead stores in the area.

“It is a passion of mine. I say I’m not artistic at all because I can’t paint or draw or anything like that,” she said. “But I am artistic. I bead.”

Skibbe said it might take her a week or two to figure out what she will create with a particular group of beads. She doesn’t get discouraged, though. She knows the inspiration can come anytime, from anywhere.

“I’ll be out and about and see something — a flower or a painting, or a dream — and I’ll say ‘that’s it. That’s what I’ll do with it,’” Skibbe said.

In addition to selling her artwork, Skibbe offers individual and group classes on beadwork. People can also create their own beadwork right in the store.

“We’ll have a couple tables upfront where people can just sit and bead,” she said. “They can choose what they want, and I can help them put it together.”

Elliot and Skibbe are both excited to be part of Benton Harbor’s growing arts district.
“Where we are at was called four corners when Benton Harbor was a thriving city, and this was the busiest corner in the whole town,” said Elliot, who also owns New Moon Gallery.

“I’ve always wanted to be a part of reviving it and bringing the arts district across to this side of the street.

“The arts district is what is giving the town its new vitality and sense of destination.”
Laurie Wilson, director for Lakeside Center for the Arts, said the current artwork at Main Street Galleries ranges in price from $125 to several thousand dollars.

The prices on antique furniture also range from the low hundreds to several thousand dollars, Elliot said.

Main Street Galleries and M’s Jemz are open from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.