Niles native donating French Paper-inspired artwork to city
Niles native turned award-winning artist Michael Hambouz is donating three pieces of his acclaimed art series, “Factory Made,” to the City of Niles.
Sanya Phillips, the city’s director of community development, thanked the 1995 Niles High School graduate for his generosity, saying the city originally thought it would be getting a single piece of his art.
“It was such an exciting thing,” Phillips said. “It was a surprise when he told us we would be getting three.”
In the “Factory Made” series, Hambouz hand cut paper stock from the family-run French Paper Company to create vibrant, abstracted scenes of the very factory where the paper is produced.
The series provides a glimpse into the operations of the 140-year-old American paper mill by showcasing the production process and machinery — from pulp to the final paper product — in intricately layered collage format.
Hambouz, who lives in New York, has said that doing the series helped him reconnect with his hometown after the death of his mother in 2012.
The series debuted in New York City in 2014 and was recently featured in an exhibit at the Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph.
Hambouz said while giving away artwork isn’t always fiscally easy for an artist, the significance of philanthropy has been ingrained in him while working as a fundraiser for non-profit art institutions for more than a decade.
“Pretty straightforward — you need to give to receive,” he said. “If we all would like to be able to enjoy museums and art, we need to help support them in any way we can.”
Three originals — Nos. 3, 9 and 10 — from the 20-piece “Factory Made” series will be displayed at the Chapin Museum in Niles as early as the middle of May.
Phillips said the plan is to host an open house at the mansion to celebrate the works. That date will be announced in the near future, she said.
Phillips said the long-term goal is to move Hambouz’s art to the Andrew Carnegie Library (currently the home of the Four Flags Chamber of Commerce at 321 E. Main St.) where it will be displayed alongside the city’s other art collections, which include a variety of paintings, drawings and sculptures currently in storage.
Phillips said the city-owned Carnegie Library would eventually become an art museum and interpretive center for the Fort St. Joseph archaeological site, which is located along the St. Joseph River in Niles.
“It is part of a long-term plan to create an interesting cultural destination,” said Phillips, adding that the hope is to place art at the Carnegie Library before the end of the year.
Hambouz said he felt offering three pieces of his work would be a great way to contribute to the effort of making Niles a destination for art.
He also said the donation allows him to pay tribute to three major influences in his life — his mother, Linda; father, Khalil; and the French Paper Company. His mother was a longtime teacher at Brandywine Community Schools and his father worked at Clark Equipment before opening a retail store downtown in the 1980s.
Each work will be donated in their respective names.
“In retrospect, both the understanding of and impact of local industry and accessibility to art were things that I felt could have been stronger for me growing up, and the news about the new museum opening is thrilling — there is no time like the present,” he said. “And if I can in any way help to inspire future generations of Niles creatives to better appreciate art, understand their community, and that pursuing an artistic passion is indeed OK and can be a respected lucrative career direction… well, then I’ll feel like I have lived a more complete life, which makes me happy.”