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Miscellany celebrates grand opening during Art.Downtown.

New Division Avenue boutique store and art gallery features heavily curated selection of small press artist books and vintage goods.
Acker's work on display at Miscellany's 03/30 soft opening

Acker's work on display at Miscellany's 03/30 soft opening /Jaimé Johnson

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Some titles by LA-based artist collective Sumi Ink Club

Some titles by LA-based artist collective Sumi Ink Club /Courtesy Photo


Miscellany /Courtesy Photo

In a time and place where every bar, coffee shop and law firm also doubles as an art gallery, bookstores specifically dedicated to the promotion of artist-made publications are a rare and wonderful thing. Los Angeles has Ooga Booga and Family. Chicago has Quimby’s and the late, but fantastic, Golden Age. New York City has Printed Matter, Inc. As of this Friday at 5 p.m., when it makes its debut as part of the Avenue for the Arts annual Art.Downtown. event, Grand Rapids will have Miscellany.

Miscellany (136 S. Division), is itself part gallery, but also boasts a design studio and a store featuring a mixture of new and used items like clothing (think vintage Pendleton and Woolrich) and a small, but impressive, collection of small press artist books from around the world. These items reflect the interests of Miscellany’s shopkeeper and principal curator, Patrick Lelli.

“Above all, it's important for me that I truly like what is available in the store,” Lelli said. “These things are all a reflection of my personal taste and what I'm excited to share with people.”

Among others, Lelli’s inventory includes works published by British Risograph innovators Landfill Editions, Public Collectors from Chicago, Los Angeles' Sumi Ink Club, and the Zürich-based artist book publishing giant Nieves, whose Empty Words (by Jürg Lehni & Alex Rich) was one of the 27 publications awarded the distinction of 2011's Most Beautiful Swiss Books this past January.

“I love small specialty shops that offer unique and hard to find merchandise. The store side is definitely influenced by some of my favorite places in a few of the different cities that I've lived in. Stores like Ooga Booga in Los Angeles and Printed Matter in New York have incredible inventory and i’m excited to try and bring part of what they do to Grand Rapids.”

Lelli, who has lived on Division Avenue since returning to the city in 2010, is excited to transition from Heartside neighbor to neighborhood business owner, having recently moved into one of Dwelling Place's arts-focused live/work spaces. 

“I like living in this part of town, it’s so central to everything,” he said. “There are some issues with the area... But I really do think there is an opportunity for things to get better.”

That said, Lelli is hoping to turn his Division Avenue storefront into an outpost for the art book world, and is already looking to expand its admittedly minimal selection. “I love finding and making small run books and I’d really love to become a source for people seeking those things out.”

The gallery side of things will be busy too.

The current exhibition features nine colorful new paintings by Brethren, MI-based artist Amanda Acker and an accompanying window installation. Acker depicts her elongated, vaguely Schiele-like figures in surreal, but contradictory, domestic and child-like scenes. Blanket forts and youthful hiding give way to a house that literally weighs heavy on the back of one of the series’ two repeated characters. Acker has an impressive knack for rendering patterns and textures, and the brightly colored blankets and clothing are by far the strongest visual element of her work.   

Acker’s paintings and installation will be on display through the end of April, when it will be replaced by a series of new drawings by local printmaker Todd Freeman.

In the meantime, Miscellany will celebrate its grand opening this Friday, with refreshments and a ribbon cutting ceremony officiated by Second Ward commissioners Ruth Kelly and Rosalyn Bliss, this Friday evening at 5 p.m.

Learn more about Miscellany on Facebook, and check out Lelli’s Etsy store to get an idea of the store’s vintage offerings.

Disclosure: Lelli is a friend and my own artist book imprint, Issue Press, is publishing a collection of drawings by Todd Freeman that will accompany his exhibition at Miscellany in May.

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