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Calumet Artist Residency acquires new home in Miller, plans bookstore

Sam Love, left, and Corey Hagelberg, right, with the Calumet Artist Residency paint a poem on the side of the Heat Light Water Co. building in Gary.

The Calumet Artist Residency, a Gary-based arts group that brings in visiting artists and has been painting poetry on boarded-up buildings across the city, has a new home in Miller.

The group has moved into a new office in a Chicago-style two-flat apartment at 6009 Miller Ave., half a block east on Lake Street in the city's lakefront neighborhood. It has big plans, including a bookstore, artist studios, regular writer meetups and a citywide nature project next year.

Corey Hagelberg and Kate Land founded the 5-year-old Calumet Artist Residency, which has hosted more than 25 artists in a formerly vacant homes, where they do art projects for the city in a variety of mediums. The group has built a pocket sculpture park along the train tracks near 18th Street Brewery in Miller, hosted poetry workshops across the city as part of the yearlong Gary Poetry Project, and published the Gary Poems zine.

Secretary Sam Love said the new base of operations will help the group, giving it a place to store materials, meet with people and organize community meetings. It could host classes on photography, poetry and other artistic subjects, as well as include printmaking facilities that would give more working space to the artists the residency brings to town.

"The building's in good shape, but it's not quite where we could welcome the public in yet," Love said. "In the long term, it would be a hive of activity. We would have artist studios, work spaces and our office because when you're growing as an organization you kind of need a physical space."

The group also has plans for a lit station that would include a "community-focused bookstore" that would promote local writers. The group has been collecting local zines, including those produced by Merrillville High School students back in the 1990s.

"One day, we'll want to do something maybe once or twice a month where local writers can come and just talk about writing," Love said. "We'll collect local literature, and eventually when the space is a little more accessible we'll have our store in there. It won't be heavily entrepreneurial, but something that promotes local arts and artistic talents, something that provides space for them to come together and organize themselves."

The bookstore could host readings and workshops. It would aim to be a hub for the Region, bringing together people from as far as the South Side of Chicago to South Bend. The hope would be to encourage local writers to produce and publish more of their work. 

"For me, it stems from the idea that places matter," Love said. "I know from my experience in graduate school that place didn't matter to those people, but I just think that's ridiculous. Everything happens in space and place so why wouldn't we take that approach? We need somewhere where local talent can be recognized. We live in the shadow of Chicago and we live in the shadow of the rest of Indiana. But we're exceptional. We're unique. I think we're only now starting to realize that uniqueness and what makes us special over here. ... Why shouldn't we be able to say we do have culture here in this place?"

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.