GARY — The energy and enthusiasm was evident Saturday night as hundreds crowded outside 411 E. 5th Ave. in Gary for the much-anticipated grand opening of ArtHouse: A Social Kitchen.
“We had people who literally gave their blood, sweat and tears to make this happen,” Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson yelled into the crowd. “This concept grew from an idea … that Gary needed a gathering place.”
Behind her stood the 14,000-square-foot building — now home to an art gallery and business incubator. The building illuminated the streets of downtown Gary with the newly installed Ripple + Wilson’s multicolored, solar-powered lanterns.
The project was brought to life with the help of acclaimed South Side Chicago artist Theaster Gates and a talented architecture and construction team, including project manager Michele L. Larimer. Virginia-based Jeana Ripple of Ripple Architecture Studio and the University of Virginia’s Barbara Brown Wilson who designed the façade installation.
Gary was chosen among the 237 cities to apply for funding through the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge, said Kate Levin, who oversees the arts program at Bloomberg Philanthropies.
“We are thrilled to be sponsoring this project because we really do believe that public art has the opportunity to transform cities,” Levin said.
Once inside, guests enjoyed complementary treats from local culinary artists, hot apple cider, music, and tours of the commercial kitchen.
ArtHouse will feature a local artists’ gallery, a cafe showcasing the creations of local culinary artists, and a business incubator program and workshops. The commercial kitchen can be rented by anyone who wants to start a culinary business.
‘Gary needs more’
Herman Miller was among the small number of vendors who were lucky enough to serve the roughly 200 guests attending ArtHouse’s grand opening.
Miller worked at lightning speed to pack hundreds of cannoli shells with his homemade ricotta-cheese-and-chocolate-chip filling as dozens of guests lined up to get a taste of his sweet treats.
The aspiring baker said he hopes to be one of the first entrepreneurs to enroll in the creative business incubator classes offered there.
“I want to hone my skills. I want to be a finished product by the time I leave the incubator. I want to go through my experimental phase, try out recipes, get some set in stone and start my business,” he said.
The lifelong Gary residents said owning a bakery is a chance to be a part of the local business boom the city needs, he said.
“(ArtHouse) is very exciting. See, I grew up in Gary and back then, Gary had bakeries all throughout the city,” Miller said. “We had one on the west side called Art’s Bakery. There was Glen Park bakery. And Gary needs more,” Miller said.