The Rapidian

Local Artist Highlight: Michele Bosak, Exhibitions Director at Kendall College of Art and Design

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

Proving that every ending is a beginning, Michele Bosak is transforming what were the Fed Galleries (and briefly UICA) into an experimental gallery space for design collaboration. Co-located with the KCAD FlexLab, the FlexGallery will enhance Kendall design programs. Interview by Pamela MacDougal.
Michele Bosak (left) sits with Saint Andro designers in FlexGallery

Michele Bosak (left) sits with Saint Andro designers in FlexGallery

Kendall College of Art and Design Events

Against the Grain Group Show

When: Now through November 15

Where: Spark Gallery (17 Fountain St NW building)

SAINT ANDRO: Fashion Startup / Swim Concept

When: Now through December 15

Where: FlexGallery (17 Pearl St NW) 

HOME by Drue McPherson

When: November 15 - December 15

Where: FlexGallery (17 Pearl St NW)

Saint Andro photoshoot in progress

Saint Andro photoshoot in progress /Michele Bosak

HOME by Drue McPherson

HOME by Drue McPherson /Michele Bosak

Light streams softly through the side of the Federal Building downtown. Despite the echoes of voices from the lobby and the sounds of heels on marble, the grand hallway yet holds a sense of quiet underneath it all. I sat with Michele Bosak at a table inside one of the building’s carved wood turnstyle entries to hear about her latest art adventure: the new FlexGallery at Kendall College of Art and Design.

Proving that every ending is a beginning, Michele has been working to transform what was the Fed Gallery (and briefly UICA) into an experimental gallery space for design collaboration. Situated in the center of the Federal Building within the same physical space as the KCAD FlexLab, the FlexGallery is well positioned to offer a unique gallery experience for the design programs at Kendall.  As Michele puts it, “We don’t have any other place in town where artists can see things evolve and practice. A lot of times we don’t give creatives space to play and practice and explore, as opposed to just presenting a final show, a final product. This space gives creatives more autonomy.”

One thing is clear: Michele is innovative, collaborative and adaptable. Before I met with Michele Bosak, I’d already heard she “does a mean garage show.” When Covid closed the galleries down, Michele created – who needs vehicle storage space when there’s art to be seen? Michele devotes herself both at Kendall and in the broader community to supporting creatives in sharing their work. This passion for galleries and exhibitions has served Michele very well as a curator at Kendall for the last 13 years, and her broad base of experience lends her a great springboard to invent a new experiential gallery space.

Michele imagines FlexGallery as a vehicle for showcasing the creative process, an “in-progress” gallery space where designers work through and share their experience with the public while designing and building a product. There could be multiple people working along the same themes or with similar materials. This very special “behind-the-scenes” look at the design process for artistic creation is something not generally available.

The first show, featuring the development of Saint Andro swimwear, is already in the gallery. A closing reception and launch party is slated for December 1st. The Saint Andro project started with an early summer meeting where Michele sat down with co-founders Hannah Yesmunt and Leigh Ann Cobb, a Kendall graduate and professional photographer. With so many facets involved in launching a design-based startup, they needed a place to play out how the swimsuit line was going to launch. As they’ve progressed with their startup, the FlexGallery has become an arts incubator for launching the swimsuit line.

The gallery will complement Kendall's design programs by offering a unique enhancement to the educational experience where a student can interact with visiting design artists. Michele points out all the possibilities inherent in combining the FlexLab and Flex Gallery in a co-location space. The FlexLab has largescale printing, 3D printing and numerous other capabilities. In Saint Andro’s case, the 3D printing capability allows them to make custom size hangers to support inclusive swimsuit sizing and large-format printing helps to highlight their research and development process through extensive photo documentation.

A permanent installation near the entrance to FlexGallery will exhibit the capabilities of the FlexLab equipment in small displays of lab-created items. Students coming into the FlexGallery space to do class assignments will be able to see what sorts of things can be done in the lab. She says most people don’t realize the FlexLab has things like an embroidery machine. A person could embroider original drawings and text or 3D print designs onto fabric, creating bespoke textiles. Using those techniques, a designer could create an entire prototypical line of custom fabric clothing. To facilitate the development of ideas for design projects, Michele has created pockets of seating and worktables in the gallery where creatives can collaborate or just hang out.

While the overall gallery concept is still under development, Michele proposes to have the gallery feature 1-2 creatives per semester who use the space in a way that develops over time. Specific to the Saint Andro exhibition, FlexGallery has hosted their product launch photoshoot, a hands-on photoshoot demo day, and a “Small Talk” discussion that allows a more casual approach for folks to ask questions about the design process, helping to fuel and inform their own practices. She’ll continue to host meet and greets to allow students a venue for interacting with practicing creatives. She would also like to capitalize on knowledge and industry connections in the Kendall design departments to support new creative startups.

When I asked what she likes personally about working on this new project, Michele says she has even more of a creative hand than she has had in the past. She loves the direct interaction with artists. Even though she has always viewed curating as a collaboration, she says “there’s greater dynamism when you can bounce ideas off someone and get more perspectives…. It’s nice to be in such a hands-on role.” She’s excited for the opportunity to learn things from people who come in - she’s learning new things right now watching photoshoot production and creative direction through Saint Andro.

While Kendall keeps Michelle busy, that hasn’t stopped her from getting around in the West Michigan art community. She loves to jury shows, including most recently the Southbend Biennial 32, hosting 10 artists from the Midwest and currently on view at the South Bend Museum of Art. She says getting out in the community is one of the ways she meets and connect with artists who could be a good fit for a show at Kendall.

Before I let her go, I asked Michele what she likes most about the Federal Building. "It’s definitely the layers of history," she told me, "And it’s a Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified in addition to being a historic landmark." The Federal Building has had three different addresses in its lifetime. Sometimes, Michele has gone into the library to have fun looking at the evolution in old photos. She says everyone in Grand Rapids has a connection to this building for some point in its history. She knows someone who came in to get his draft card when the building hosted the Post Office, and of course, it also hosted courtrooms. Despite the powerful and imposing design of the building, she notes that when you come inside, there is so much warmth, detail, and craftsmanship. “To remake this building today,” she says, “would be a feat. It has beautiful light….”

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