If you’re heading to Ann Arbor for the holidays, you’ll want to put two more outliers on your must-see list of visual arts venues: River Gallery, in nearby Chelsea, Mich., and Motawi Tileworks, within the city limits but best reached by car.
Chelsea resident Patti Schwarz first opened River Gallery in a second-story space in 2000 to showcase her husband John’s mixed-media work, but when a dilapidated 1898 building across the street became available, she and arts entrepreneur Deborah Greer joined forces to, as Patti puts it, “renovate and build an art business.”
One look at the soaring, 3,200-square-foot gallery space at 120 S. Main St. in the heart of town proves the two owners have matched and exceeded their own expectations. In their current location since 2003, River Gallery is now considered one of the premier fine art galleries in the state. The gallery mounts two concurrent exhibitions six times a year and specializes in Michigan artists of all kinds, including painters, mixed-media artists, sculptors, woodworkers and ceramic artists. For details on the gallery and upcoming shows, go to www.chelsearivergallery.com
Motawi Tileworks (170 Enterprise Drive) looks like a little factory warehouse from the outside because that’s just what it is, with a twist. Founded in 1992 by brother and sister Karim and Nawal Motawi, the studio workshop and production facility creates tiles made with local clays and glazes mixed on site using Motawi’s own recipes. Designs are strongly influenced by early 20th-century decorative artists.
You can make reservations to tour the facilities, learn tile-making or purchase one tile—or a boxload. For more information, visit www.motawi.com.