Several years ago, when the future of downtown Miller Beach looked bleak, Joyce Davis, owner of Lake Street Gallery, faced a difficult choice. Should she stay in Miller Beach where she’d operated her store since 1993 or, taking the lead of many other businesses including the very popular Miller Bakery Café which had just closed, move to Chesterton?
“I had been here for 18 years at the time and had never signed a lease,” says Davis, enumerating the reasons why she ultimately decided to stay. “They wanted me to sign a 14-page, two year lease for the store in Chesterton. My landlord here didn’t want me to leave and offered me a year’s free rent. Also I had just met a wonderful man; people would come up to me and say, don’t leave. And I love Miller. Besides, I had moved from the building next door and that pretty much took it out of me, I couldn’t even imagine moving everything to Chesterton.”
So Davis stayed and now her gallery is an anchor in the resurgence of the downtown. Miller resident and Chicago restaurateur Jack Strode renovated the historic building where the Miller Bakery Café was located and recently reopened it under the same name. Several other new businesses also are now part of Miller Beach including Angela’ Pantry, with its wonderful French inspired food and later this year there’s a new microbrewery slated to start up as well.
Davis was one of the driving forces in the formation of Miller Beach Arts & Creative District’s Pop-Up Art events, a partnership between artists of all genre and property owners who offer temporary spaces in the downtown at no cost. Scheduled on certain Saturdays in the summer and before the Christmas holidays, Pop-Up Art showcases the works of local painters, photographers, sculptors, jewelry makers and textile artists with book signings by area authors and food vendors and attracts hundreds of people.
Lake Street Gallery is often the nexus for the community. Hosting artist showings and book signings, Davis helps present what’s happening in the community. Recently the gallery hosted a Meet & Greet with the Shirley Heinze Fund so that residents could become more aware of the work they do in local land conservation.
A graduate of Roosevelt University in Chicago with a degree in art education, Davis used to work in mediums such as pastels. Now, she says her creativity goes into helping display and selling other’s works.
“I represent mostly local artists and feature original art that is handmade in the United States or Canada,” says Davis, noting that the gallery specializes in art inspired by the Indiana Dunes and the Lake Michigan coastline but also offers abstract works and photography. She has long term relationships with artists such as Jean Bargeron, a landscape and portrait artist who works mostly in oils and Susan Kallimani who she’s represented for 14 years. An adaptation of one of Kallimani’s photos was used on the t-shirts for this year’s 20th Annual Gallery Gallop, a beach dune run produce by Lake Street Gallery and funded by the Miller Business Community and Miller Community Fund with monies collected going towards local art and improvement projects.
Being part of the Miller Beach community has always been essential to Davis since she moved here from Chicago 34 years ago with her first husband.
“I love the diversity, the unique people and how people work together here for the good of the community,” she says.
And as for being too busy to create her own art, Davis is philosophical.
“I don’t think I ever was a great artist,” she explains. “The world didn’t lose a Rembrandt when I stopped painting.”
Indeed, Davis’s real strength seems to be in helping create and foster a community.