8 Art Cats

As I circled back from Pere Marquette into town, I passed a sign for Art Cats Gallery. I decided to stop in and see what a Hopper stand-in would experience as an artist in Muskegon. Also, the name of the gallery reminded me of Hopper's wife, Jo, who often included cats, especially her beloved Arthur, in her paintings. Until she married Hopper, that cat was her only companion. But Arthur soon after wandered into a cold New York night never to return.

Art Cats' owner, Louise, was firing pots when I walked in, but she stepped from the linoleum-tiled studio in back to meet me under the low ceiling of the carpeted showroom where thrift store shelves held furniture, paintings, sculptures, and jewelry. She had the air of an aging beauty. Her long legs were jammed into jeans caked with clay, an apron draped her torso, and her hair was wrapped in a sporty kerchief. From the studio came the sound of music by Seal, and, soon after I asked if she had a second to talk, there emerged a longhaired man in a black biker T-shirt who leaned silently against the doorjamb throughout my interview.

Wiping away some plaster from her cheek, Louise grinned at my question about the arts scene in Muskegon and answered, "Progressing," as if there was nowhere to go but up. "The area from here to Pere Marquette Park used to be a thriving arts colony in the days when Buster Keaton lived here. Then it became a factory city, blue-collar." Even as she said this, my throat was tickled by the tang from the paper mill smokestack on the waterfront across the road.

"Now, there aren't a lot of galleries in Muskegon," she continued. "I've lived here 15 years and just opened the gallery in December. A gallery on Apple Street only lasted three days. There is a hard-core group of arts supporters here, though, and it is a nice museum that the Hopper's in. Muskegon is 'in transition' now. There's been an influx of people from other areas with more interest in culture. People are hungry for something more like what we offer rather than regular stores."

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