The Place to Be Seen

Lane, who graduated from Michigan State University in 1989 with a degree in English education and taught for three years, returned to the Lansing area for graduate school and settled in the area. When his wife got a job teaching in the Lansing School District, Tim became a stay-at-home dad for about ten years, during which time he did freelance artwork, wrote art columns for “What’s On” in the Lansing State Journal, and became increasingly involved in the local art scene.

He now works for the City of East Lansing, and having been active in Scene’s renovation following its move, eagerly accepted the director job when it became available in September 2008. He talks about how the exhibition process works. “I decide on the themes, and kick them around with volunteers who’ve been involved with the gallery. From there, a call for submission goes out; or if I have artists in mind, I’ll build it from that. We do call submissions on our website and artist e-mail list, and occasionally [through] the media. Artists determine whether they have material that fits the show and respond. “Generally, we come up with a theme and the call goes out about two months before the show is scheduled to open.”

Occasionally Lane has to turn artists away, but generally “it works out and it falls into place. We get about the right number of applicants.”  From some artists, he receives .jpg images to preview and evaluate along with their artist statement or résumé; local artists often arrange for him to see their work firsthand in their studios. After the selections are made, artists either ship their paintings to Metrospace or deliver them in person. With room for about two dozen works, all of which are for sale, Metrospace receives a 30 percent commissions on all sales, which in turn goes to the City of East Lansing. Lane says that the number of pieces that sell over the course of any given exhibition varies. Sometimes none will sell, sometimes a couple, sometimes slightly more.  “It’s not so much about the retail sales,” Lane explains. “It’s great for the artist, but if you sold two or three pieces in a show, you’d be doing pretty well. It’s really hard to predict. Selling artwork isn’t the main focus; it’s providing an experience, an experience that connects people to the area, which gives the artist an outlet for artistic expression. It’s an outlet for creative people to stay connected to the community.” Lane emphasized that the purpose of Metrospace is not to make money. In fact, to date the space is not self-sufficient, although one of their goals is to become so through additional fundraising efforts, and increased sales and rentals in order to reduce the city’s subsidy. However, “the city supports Scene and wants Scene here,” Lane says. “It’s a destination;
it’s a unique venue. It’s more like a museum or a cultural center. The focus is to continue to try and provide thought-provoking, interesting art shows, shows that people who like art will continue to come and see and might not be able to find elsewhere in the area. It’s alternate art space. It’s a little more cutting-edge.” Beginning this month (January ’09) Metrospace is featuring works of art created by Michigan State University alumni, visiting faculty and MFA (Master of Fine Arts) students. However, Lane is quick to point out that the work submitted by the dozen or so artists isn’t necessarily Spartan-related. The exhibit runs through the end of February and hopes to attract more of what Lane said is the core audience of the 25- to 35-year-old age group.

In addition to art exhibits, Metrospace is available to rent for private parties, meetings and the like. The cost of a Monday-Wednesday evening rental is $250, Thursday-Saturday is $350. If someone wants to do a show here, the rate varies. “If a show falls within programming or is community-based, we can work it in the schedule,” Lane says. “When we do something that becomes part of programming [such as poetry readings], we have suggested donations, and the money goes to benefit Metrospace.” Local musicians and bands also perform on Scene’s stage. Lane said Metrospace takes half of gate receipts if one band’s playing, and a proportional share if the event features more than one band. For instance, when three bands play, Scene gets 25 percent. The space has a seating capacity of 80; for bands that draw a crowd who likes to stand (bands that play more upbeat music), Lane says they can hold 100-110 people before it starts getting crowded and he has to worry about the art hanging on the walls getting damaged. Sizes of crowds vary widely. Sometimes, almost no one will show up; other times, an event will draw 45 to 80 people.  Scene also has a motorized movie screen that drops from the ceiling, an LCD projector for showing movies, and a great sound system, although there is some reverberation to deal with. Lane said he would welcome inquiries from local filmmakers who are looking for an outlet for their work. The same goes for dancers, and people with one-person shows that can be worked into programming. Getting the word out continues to be a challenge. Advertising is accomplished mainly through flyers, e-mail blasts, notices in newspapers and word-of-mouth. Lane said that increasingly they’re having good results getting the word out on their MySpace and Facebook pages. Eventually, he expects the Internet to become their best promotional tool. 

Depending on the event or exhibit, they’ll try to put notices up on the hot spots on campus. During art exhibits, Scene holds an opening reception on a Friday night. Normal exhibit hours, when Lane or one of Scene’s volunteers “gallery watch” the space, are Thursday from 2-5 p.m., Friday and Saturday 2-6 and Sunday 12-4. Live performances are typically held on Saturday nights. Lane says that he’s open for suggestions beyond their standard fare. For instance, “Recently [I] had a couple of artists contact me and had an idea [for a show] that combines visual art and poetry,” and were looking for the right venue to house it. And “an MSU art instructor has a community project called ‘Thinking Inside the Box.’ She’s working with elementary schools and they’re creating art. She came to me and said they’re looking for a professional place to put on an exhibition. So we worked it in to the schedule.” Whether Scene Metrospace is eventually able to operate in the black or not remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Lane and fellow patrons of the arts are committed to continuing their efforts to bring unique works of fine art from all over the country to the cool city of East Lansing.


Author: Jack Schaberg
Photographer: Terri Shacer

Scene Metrospace

Tim Lane, Director

110 Chales Street

East Lansing

(517) 319-6832

www.scenemetrospace.com

Exhibit hours:

Thusday from 2-5 p.m.

Friday and Saturday 2-6 p.m.

Sunday 12-4 p.m.

Live performances are typically held on Saturday nights

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